Seldom has a year been as difficult as this last one. The first seven months were really going well, report livestock auctioneers, McCartneys.

Exports had come back with a vengeance for fat cattle and cows; cattle go to Scotland and then on to Italy and the lamb trade was buoyant and all seemed well in the world - until the outbreak of foot and mouth at the beginning of August.

"This was the start of an extremely turbulent time. Not only did we have the first outbreak and then a return to business, followed by another immediate outbreak and the doors being shut on us again from Europe," reports a spokesman for the firm.

"The second outbreak was certainly more devastating than the first since the Europeans had to be absolutely convinced there was no disease in the country before they would allow exports. In this time, the lamb trade went into freefall. Politicians seem to think that the world can stay still and regulations can be imposed ad nauseum without affecting businesses.

"Sadly this is not the case. Export orders, once lost, are very hard to get back and this has certainly been the case with lambs and the case with barren cow meat. Furthermore, certain buyers have simply had enough of the regulations. They have had enough of the costs, enough of the bureaucracy and continually trading under difficulties, as have the rest of us.

"Coupled with all of the above, there has been the Bluetongue saga which will continue this year. Europe says don't draw lines on a map, get a vaccine as soon as you can. This is the only thing that will work, and so DEFRA as soon as Bluetongue comes in, draws lines on a map and says this is what the Europeans want us to do.

"Who are you to believe? Do you believe government at all now?

"The whole integrity of regulations and the whole integrity of DEFRA is very much in the melting pot. The regulations have become so devoid from what is reality on the ground as to become laughable. It is a pity that Gilbert and Sullivan are not alive because it would have made a marvellous story for a comic opera."

As regards Ludlow Market, the spokesman said it had fared better than many in 2007.

"This does not mean to say we have been happy with the situation but we cannot alter the world in which we live - all we can do is make the best of it," he said.

"Numbers are obviously down for the year but in the last week or two there has been a definite swing back in our favour.

There is a much better feel to the job suddenly and our buying support is as large as it has ever been."