A SOUTH Cumbrian farmer said he has been left 'heartbroken' after his farm was revealed as the centre of a national bovine tubercculosis alert.
More than 100 cows sold at a dispersal auction in Cheshire are being urgently traced and tested following the bTB outbreak at Corney Hall Farm, Bootle, near Millom.
The source of the outbreak is unknown - but one theory is that it could have emerged from the wild animal population.
Livestock confirmed with bTB have to be slaughtered to control the disease.
Farmer Stephen Boow, who farms Corney Hall with his mother Doreen, said: "We've really no idea yet how it came on to the farm, although it's possible it could have come from wild animals. We're just heartbroken."
The nature of the a dispersal sale - where cows are bought by individual farmers rather than sold as an entire herd to one buyer - means those animals infected with teh disease can spread it far and wide.
A total of 118 pedigree Holsteins from Corney Hall - known as the Dunnerdale herd - were bought on February 28 by farmers from all over Britain.
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A sale report at Wright Manley's Beeston Castle mart in Cheshire shows that three of the most valuable Holsteins were bought by farmers at Whittington near Kirkby Lonsdale, Ulverston and Millom.
The alert is the second bTB scare in the area in less than a year. Last May, the disease was discovered at a number of local farms, leading to dozens of animals being slaughtered and tests being imposed at around 150 farms.
South Lakeland vet Iain Richards said it was a mystery how bTB could have infected a 'closed' herd where no new animals are bought in from other farms.
"If no other animals have been introduced, such as llamas, goats and sheep, you could well be looking at a wildlife problem."