Farmer who let cattle get thin and failed to deal with bull's ingrowing horn avoids jail

A Shropshire farmer has been given a suspended jail sentence after admitting failing to look after his cattle properly.

Ian Leslie Cooper, aged 65, of Woodbank Farm, Abdon, near Craven Arms, appeared at Telford Magistrates Court on Monday for sentencing after admitting charges earlier this year.

The magistrates were also told that Cooper been found wanting by animal health inspectors while he was under a period of conditional discharge for similar offences.

Cooper had admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a bull in June 2021 by failing to trim or remove part of an ingrowing horn which had pierced the animal's skin.

He also admitted keeping cattle in a shed in fields where there were hazards, namely bricks, a broken gate and barbed wire at ground level.

And a bovine and a calf were were kept in a pen with hazardous material, namely broken corrugated metal with exposed edges.

Cooper also admitted to keeping bulls in the same field as calves and heifers which led to the smaller animals being bullied away from food, causing them to be inadequately fed.

All the offences were recorded at 'Osley' at Clee St Margaret following visits from Shropshire Council animal welfare inspectors.

Mike Davies, prosecuting, said the most recent offences occurred in March and June 2021, within a period of conditional discharge.

"He did not have the medical equipment on the farm to deal with the ingrowing horn," said Mr Davies.

"Some of the 32 cattle were thin because they were in the same holding as bulls, which were healthy. They push the other animals out of the way for food which leads to the other animals suffering."

Mr Davies said there had been evidence of improvement at the farm since the offences. He added that the council would not seek to deprive Mr Cooper of the animals.

The farm is currently under restrictions which mean that movement and sale of cattle is restricted, and in the worst case it would mean the destruction of the animals.

Jane Sarginson, defending, said the inspectors had visited the farm without warning in February and March at a time when "things are difficult" for those in farming.

"Mr Cooper's brother had just died, and the inspectors arrived on the farm the day before the funeral," she said.

Mr Cooper's brother's death also meant that he has to look after that land too, at the same time as his mobility is restricted as he waits for a hip operation.

She added that despite this, the farm had been showing improvements.

"He had attempted to catch the bull so the horn could be treated but couldn't catch it, then he left it as a TB check was due and that would have caught the bull," said Ms Sarginson.

"After taking on his brother's holding he now has altogether about 100 acres, with 54 cattle and 120 sheep.

"The bulls have now gone, no animals have died," she said.

Mr Cooper has also been hit by reductions in government grants since the offences, which mean his finances have been affected.

"He apologises," said Ms Sarginson. "Some say he is stubborn and intransigent but others would say he is a kind and gentle man who does not want to burden anyone."

Mr Cooper's friend, and farmer neighbour Julian Aston, from Baggott Farm, Middleton Priors, near Bridgnorth, spoke up for Mr Cooper's character from the witness box.

Mr Aston farms just under 400 acres made up of crops and beef and has been in the industry for 48 years. He has been helping his friend by buying cattle and selling him feedstuff.

"I did not see any issues with the animals, they seemed to be fit and healthy," said Mr Aston.

"They seemed to be fit and healthy and their state wasn't bad. They had room to lie down and water."

He added: "He's only got to ask for help if he has an issue, I am only a few miles away."

The magistrates decided to impose a 12-week custodial sentence but suspend it for two years. They included in that decision other offences covered by the conditional discharge.

Cooper will also be ordered to pay a £122 victim surcharge and £5,081 in costs.

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