AN anguished Kidderminster farmer has slammed dog walkers for ignoring footpath bans near his farm on the day specialist gunmen moved in to destroy his life's work. Fields near Chaddesley Corbett which are the scene of the first pyres of burning carcasses in Wyre Forest.

Robin Feakin, 58, was incensed at seeing dogs exercised off the lead around Stanklyn Lane at the weekend, while more than 2,000 of his cattle and sheep were being shot after being caught up in the foot and mouth epidemic.

The stock on his land at Sparum Farm, Stone, and also on his farms at Chaddesley Corbett, Heightington and Elmley Lovett were slaughtered where they stood after confirmation on Thursday of an infection linked with his brother's Herefordshire farm where one of the first outbreaks of the disease occurred.

The burning of carcasses, which Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries records put at about 1,500 cattle and 1,400 sheep, started at the weekend at Chaddesley Corbett where the first foot and mouth pyres were lit in Wyre Forest.

Speaking from enforced isolation in his farmhouse with the dead bodies of cattle he spent 44 years breeding lying in nearby cowsheds, Mr Feakin begged the public: "Please don't go out walking with your dogs anywhere near farms or on the lanes around them. Foot and mouth can be carried in your breath or in the mud on your feet or on dogs' paws.

"Even if your dog is on a lead you should remember badgers and foxes and other animals are capable of picking up the infection and spreading it."

But he feared that warnings to avoid going into the countryside were "falling on deaf ears" after seeing walkers whom he believed must have used footpaths round his land at the weekend.

Mr Feakin described graphically the experience of his family including five children - twin boys aged 13, a daughter, 15, and twin 16-year-old girls - marooned in their home for at least five days after the slaughter and working at their school homework to keep back the tears.

"I feel gutted. I am a farmer and have lived with death as part of my work but I have never seen anything like this.

"What has happened over the past few days has been harrowing for all of us", he said. "That goes for myself, my family and for the ministry men who came here to do the job. It was not a pretty sight and very distressing."

His only outing has been with strict precautions to a farm in Wiltshire where more cattle he owns have been destroyed.

Mr Feakin recalled: "The only consolation was they did it beautifully. There was no herding them up. They just dispatched them where they were, lying in the straw, cudding or however they were, and so quietly no animal moved.

"Thankfully I had to stay in the house and just heard the muffled sounds of shots. I have been keeping busy doing the paper work you have to do to set your animal records in order."

But the efficiency of the abattoir officers brought in by MAFF was poor consolation for Mr Feakin who anticipated that when the carcasses are removed his farm will turn into a "ghost land".

He bred his first cow when he was 14 and has spent his life in farming, perfecting his herds of Simmental and Limousin cattle. He lost a dozen top-notch bulls in the slaughter.

He does not know if he will have the stomach to carry on farming after the epidemic is over.

The valuer has been to see the animals, but Mr Feakin says nothing can replace them.