WORCESTERSHIRE farmers were facing another desperate battle to protect their livestock from disease today (March 16) after a fresh outbreak of foot-and-mouth was confirmed.

More than 4,000 sheep will be slaughtered after Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Foods officials finally confirmed the infection at Grove Farm, Bishampton, near Pershore.

The result of previous livestock checks over more than two weeks had proved inconclusive.

This morning, farmer Robert Smith was preparing to slaughter his flock.

Yesterday, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said sheep and pigs susceptible to the disease would be culled in two mile-wide zones in areas of high infection.

Worrying

The National Farmers' Union accepted the cull as "grim, but necessary".

The affected areas are unlikely to include Worcestershire, which has seen four sites confirmed with the disease.

But Richard Jordan, Worcestershire's NFU chairman, said the cull was beyond all reason.

"I'd like to question their scientific judgement," said Mr Jordan, whose Inkberrow sheep and poultry farm lies between two infected sites.

"To have gone from saying they're in control to what's happening now is desperately worrying.

"I'd also like to know why they imposed an export ban two days before the restriction of movement came into force. Animals due for export went back on the market and were sent all over the country."