Suffolk farmer allowed 56 cattle to die in “disgusting” conditions, court hears

The trial is ongoing at Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: SIMON PARKER

The trial is ongoing at Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: SIMON PARKER - Credit: Archant

A farmer who allowed 56 cattle to die in “disgusting” conditions on his Suffolk farm has been given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay fines and costs of nearly £30,000.

Vets who went to Withersdale Hall Farm, Metfield in March last year found the carcasses of 38 cattle in various stages of decomposition in a muck heap and others were found rotting in slurry near malnourished animals, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Sentencing 45-year-old Robin Hayward, Judge Martyn Levett described his treatment of the cattle as “incompetent and inhumane” and said they had suffered over a prolonged period of more than six weeks.

He rejected defence claims that the offences were the result of a financial crisis and said Hayward had access to funding which could have prevented unnecessary suffering to the cattle.

“As a consequence of your failings cattle died and were left to rot away in knee-deep slurry with live cattle trampling over the dead carcasses to compete for inadequate feed,” said the judge.

He described the conditions the animals were living in as “disgusting” and said Hayward was solely responsible for what happened to them.

Hayward admitted eight offences including causing unnecessary suffering to cattle, failing to have carcasses identified and collected without delay, failing to notify the death of cattle and offences relating to the welfare of the cattle.

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He was given a 44 week prison sentenced suspended for two years and ordered to do 120 hours unpaid work in the community.

He was also fined £16,200, ordered to pay costs of £12,900 and was banned from keeping or owning farm animals.

Adam Pearson, prosecuting, said the offences came to light after Hayward’s sister went to the farm in March last year and saw a number of dead animals.

Oliver Haswell, for Hayward, said his client had panicked and “buried his head in the sand” when cattle started dying.

He said Hayward had effectively worked as a “hired hand” after returning to the farm from Australia when his father became ill and subsequently died.

He said his client had “taken on too much” against a background of him suffering a back injury, damage caused by storm “Doris”, a lack of money and staff and the end of his second marriage.

He said Hayward had gone into a “downward spiral” and there had been concerns about his mental health.

Councillor Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment, public protection and broadband, said: “The integrity of the food chain and preventing disease outbreaks are critical in protecting both human health and the rural economy of Suffolk.

“This prosecution acts as a reminder of the importance of maintaining good farming standards and should reassure the public that action will be taken, when necessary, to protect consumers.

“I would encourage anyone within the farming community who may be going through difficult times to contact the Farming Community Network. The network provide free, confidential, pastoral and practical support to anyone who seeks help, whether the issue is personal or business-related, and they can be contacted on 03000 111999.

“Anyone who is concerned about the welfare of livestock can report it, in confidence, by contacting Trading Standards via 03454 040 506.”

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