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The Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore was absolutely right to be so cautious in his predictions about foot and mouth disease, the NFU said today.

NFU President Ben Gill said: "Jim Scudamore's warning that we are by no means over the worst shows the importance of the message we have reiterated time and again - we must hope for the best but assume the worst."

Mr Gill said that the CVO's comments that the crisis is likely to last "a long time" underlined the reasoning behind the fact that the desperately-needed movement of animals for welfare purposes must be very restricted and under the most stringent of conditions.

He said: "As farmers, we have to take the advice of the MAFF vets about the potential spread of the disease.

"Farmers must understand the importance of reporting any unusual symptoms at all.

"Sheep farmers must be particularly careful when checking their animals as the disease does not show itself as easily in the sheep population.

"They should look for any suspicious signs, particularly unexplained and sudden high mortality rates among otherwise healthy new-born lambs.

"We would also appeal to anyone who bought sheep in the last three weeks at Longtown market - which seems to be a focal point of tracing the disease - or any other of the affected markets to be extremely vigilant in the coming days."

Mr Gill also reminded farmers of the need for scrupulously clean lorries for the transport of any livestock that have been permitted to move to

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