A pig breeder has spoken of his devastation after 2,000 sows and piglets were killed in a major blaze on his farm.
The animals were kept in a recently built farrowing house that caught fire at Glenmarshal Pedigree Pigs in Kilkeel, Co Down on Monday night.
Farmer Trevor Shields started the business 44 years ago.
He said blood lines that had been established through decades of breeding had been wiped out in the fire that killed 140 sows and more than 1,800 piglets.
“It was devastating, totally devastating,” said Mr Shields.
“This is my livelihood”.
He added: “I have lost breeding animals I can’t replace.
“There were blood lines we had going back years, generations.”
Among the breeds kept in the destroyed farrowing house were Large Whites and Landrace.
Firefighters were called to the blaze shortly before 9pm on Monday.
Mr Shields said he was at a meeting in Armagh when the fire took hold.
He said the flames could be seen from miles away.
Four fire appliances attended the scene off the Carrigenagh Road and worked to prevent the flames spreading to adjacent pig houses.
“We have to praise the fire service for the tremendous job they did preventing the fire spreading to other buildings, there were other buildings close by and they contained the fire to one building,” said Mr Shields.
“They need to be commended for that because they saved a lot of animals’ lives by their sterling work.”
One farm worker suffered minor burns to his feet in the incident.
He was taken to hospital for treatment.
The fire, which is believed to have been accidental, was brought under control at around 11.50pm.
Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Assistant Group Commander Martin Healy said the fire was well developed when he and colleagues arrived on the scene.
“The firefighters worked in obviously very difficult conditions, in darkness and underfoot, to extinguish the fire,” he said.
“Actually we had to try to protect the other sheds as there’s a lot of other pigs housed in them and thankfully we were able to stop the fire spreading to those sheds.
“But unfortunately we were unable to save between 1,500 and 2,000 pigs within the shed the main blaze was contained in.”
He told BBC Radio Ulster the incident was a “very difficult scene to witness”.
“We spoke with the farm owner and obviously our sympathies go out to him and all his staff on the devastating loss and he said himself he was devastated for the loss that he did suffer.”
Agriculture minister Edwin Poots told the Assembly that his department would provide veterinary support to Mr Shields to ensure the surviving pigs were still in good health.