The harsh reality of farm life and animal husbandry were brought home to hundreds of people who watched over the Internet as a newborn foal died last night.

Web cams had been trained on the stall of shire horse Queenie for several weeks as fans of the National Trust MyFarm project eagerly awaited the unique opportunity to watch her foal live from their own homes.

But the tragic outcome was one they didn’t expect.

The MyFarm experiment launched in May giving 10,000 members of the public a say in the running of a real working farm on the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate, near Royston in Cambridgeshire.

Farm Manager Richard Morris released a statement today which said: “It was a huge decision for us to do a live broadcast of the birth.  There was never a guarantee that the foaling would be straight forward and unfortunately, this proved to be the case.  But we didn’t want to hide people from the risks involved – it’s fundamental to the purpose of this project – to reconnect people with the realities of farming to allow the possibility of lows as well as highs.”

Queenie gave birth just before midnight last night, but MyFarm staff in attendance at the birth quickly realised that all was not well and the filly foal was not breathing. She had a weak pulse, but when her mother stood up and the umbilical cord broke the foal gently slipped away and efforts to resuscitate her were in vain.

Those who watched were quick to share their feelings of sadness on forums and Facebook and other sites. Pet website LostandFond was among those reporting on the tragedy while on Facebook members of community groups like Horsey Insomniacs R Us shared their sadness and shock.