Farmer banned from keeping animals

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A farm which had been in the same family for five generations suffered a ‘catastrophic demise’ which led to total financial ruin, Banbridge Magistrates Court has heard.

Forty-two-year-old Robert Martin, Drumaghsdone Road, Banbridge, admitted that between September 9, 2013, and November 25, 2013, he failed to produce vetinary medicine records.

He also admitted that on March 6, 2014, he caused unnecessary suffering to bovine animal and on the same date failed to take all reasonable steps to ensure the conditions in which a number of calves were kept complied with regulations in that he failed to isolate sick or injured animals in suitable accommodation.

The court heard that in 2013 he moved cows into another herd and an inspection found that 14 animals were unaccounted for while 19 animals were not on the herd register.

On March 6 a vetinary officer visited the farm and found a calf on wet bedding and a cow in an emaciated state and unable to rise. There was no access to food or water.

At a previous court appearance a disqualification order was sought. It was agreed the animals should be taken to a new home and there were no animals on the farm. Martin had a previous conviction for cruelty to animals and was in breach of a suspended sentence.

A barrister representing the defendant said his family had farmed the land for five generations. It was dairy farming.

He explained that when new slurry storage legislation was introduced in 2007 to do the work and improve the milking parlour Martin borrowed £230,000 from the Ulster Bank.

The lawyer added that as the work was being done payments were made in instalments to the contractor who was employing sub-contractors. Then the contractor went bankrupt and it transpired that he had not been paying the sub-contractors who went after Martin for their money. This led to VAT fraud.

The barrister said this was all very stressful for his client who was now doing milking work for other farms. He was also the subject of a £100,000 writ in the High Court.

He explained that the bank had called in the loan and a significant amount of the farm’s land had been re-possessed.

He added that it was Martin’s ambition to get back into farming. District Judge, Mr Paul Copeland, said that from a highly respected family history there was a ‘catastrophic demise of a family farming operation.

He said there was a lack of experience and poor commercial judgement.

“Things went from bad to worse and he was let down by the bad faith of others which led to total financial ruin,” said Judge Copeland.

He added that he would also take into account the adverse circumstances for dairy farmers.

For each offence Judge Copeland imposed a conditional discharge for two years.

The ban on keeping animals – not including family pets – would also run for two years.

The judge made no order regarding the suspended sentence.