AN appeal to farmers not to hold up blood-testing comes from Elwyn Maddy, chairman of the Herefordshire branch of the National Farmers' Union.

He understood that the county could become a provisional-free zone in about a month if DEFRA were able to continue their blood-testing without hold ups.

Mr Maddy said that the Walterstone area remained an infected zone within 10 km of the Crickhowell outbreak in Powys where blood-testing was expected to be completed within three weeks. "We have to get the random blood-testing completed.

"Farmers need to trade and I wouldn't want it to come back that farmers had been reluctant to comply with the tests. This is a very important issue. We have been told that to lift the infected line in the county will take three to four weeks and a week after that would bring the county into a provisional free zone."

l A senior auctioneer has written to farmers requesting them to co-operate fully with blood-testing requests from DEFRA in a bid to reduce the high-risk classification. Richard Gwilliam of McCartneys, said that Richard Grenville of the state veterinary service, had told him that blood-testing had been slowed because farmers had told veterinary staff they were too busy to have their stock blood-tested.

"It is not that the farmers don't want the blood testing," said Mr Gwilliam, "but that they are too busy when the veterinary staff want to carry it out."

Mr Gwilliam said he wanted to point out to farmers how important it was for them to co-operate fully so that blood-testing could be completed and restrictions eased.