Germany’s agricultural industry is on tenterhooks as the country’s health officials wait anxiously to see if foot-and-mouth disease had spread to the country.

Vets yesterday found sheep that showed antibodies to the ailment but had apparently not contracted the disease. Preliminary probes on the sheep that have shown foot and mooth antibodies has tested negative for the virus itself. A third and conclusive test is currently being carried out.

The sheep come from two farms in the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia have been quarantined within a radius of three kilometres. Both farms had recently imported sheep from Britain.

The quarantine on the two farms is expected to remain in place until the all clear is given by officials.

Officials were not optimistic Germany could remain free of the disease for long despite culling around 1,500 sheep and lambs as part of efforts to prevent the disease spreading into Germany via livestock imported from Britain. Germany is also tracing animals imported into Germany from Britain by way of third countries.

Other measures imposed by the German government include the slaughter of all sheep originating from infected British farms, a closure of livestock markets for a week beginning today, building up a foot-and-mouth vaccine stockpile and tightening controls on animal transport.

German health officials have said the country has imported 3,530 sheep from Britain since 20 January, of which 2,400 went to the Baden-Wuerttemberg region, 430 to Hessen and 700 to North Rhine-Westphalia.