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Farming

Farmers who knowingly kept cattle with bovine TB on farm fined

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THREE members of a Pembrokeshire farming family have been sentenced for deliberately swapping cattle ear tags; actions that saw animals with Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) reactors remain on the farm.

Bovine Tuberculosis is a zoonotic infection that can infect many species, including humans and wildlife, though transmission to humans in the UK is very rare as a result of control measures in place across the agricultural and food industries.

The actions of Edward, Charles and Henry Hartt displayed widespread illegality and created an unacceptable and serious risk to animal health.

The Hartts operate a large scale dairy and beef farming enterprise – Messrs EW Hartt & Sons – at Longford Farm, Clynderwen, comprising about 2800 cattle.

The three men were sentenced at Swansea Crown Court on Monday, March 4th for offences committed under the Cattle Identification (Wales) Regulations 2007; legislation which underpins cattle management, disease control and traceability systems put in place to ensure the safety of the entire farming industry.

All three defendants had previously pleaded guilty to 12 counts on March 25th, 2022.
The court heard that where higher value cattle had tested positive for TB and would be valued for compensation, poorer quality animals would then be sent for slaughter in its place.

This meant that infected animals were kept on the farm with a significant risk of spreading the disease to other animals and jeopardising the success of the TB eradication programme.

Their retention would undoubtedly allow the disease to persist on farm, slowing the progress of eradication within the herd and the general cattle population and increasing costs to the Welsh Government and taxpayer.

The practice would also have resulted in the slaughter of healthy animals not actually infected with TB.
It was also determined that a portion of farm’s milk would have come from TB reactors that should have been removed, which under food safety legislation was banned from entering the food chain.

Where poorer cattle tested positive, evidence showed that they were substituted at valuation for higher value animals, attracting a higher level of compensation – but with the more valuable animals subsequently retained and the lower value TB reactors sent for slaughter.

Each defendant was fined a total of £24,000 – £2,000 for each count on the indictment.

The sentencing reflected the heightened TB risk of reactors remaining on farm, TB lesions present in cattle and a clear risk that misidentified animals could have entered the food chain.

As well as the significant fine, associated action had been taken against the defendants under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA).

This legislation was introduced with the aim of recovering assets, including money, acquired through criminal activity.

The use of POCA is particularly pertinent when it is so manifestly in the public interest to ensure criminal activity is not rewarded.

The criminal benefit arising in connection with the offending would have been derived through a mix of pathways.

This included TB compensation payments, sale of illegal stock, sale of milk from illegally retained stock, as well as the wider benefits gained by the farming enterprise.

The Hartts’ actions enabled a steady and continual expansion of the business, on a stronger financial footing, to the detriment of other farms in a competitive market.

This resulted in confiscation orders of £217,906 against each defendant jointly and severally to reflect the ‘criminal benefit’ associated with the offending.

The court also awarded the Council costs of £94,569.

The case brought by Pembrokeshire County Council followed an in-depth investigation by officers from the Council’s Public Protection Animal Health and Welfare Team, working in conjunction with the Animal and Plant Health Agency veterinary officers and other regulatory partners.

The investigation was triggered following the identification of anomalies at the farm in June 2019.

The subsequent investigations were complex and protracted over the remainder of the year, involving a number of inspections and visits, DNA sampling of milking cows, detailed audit and cross-referencing of farm records, ear tag and freeze brand (markings on the animal) checks, post-mortems and blood samples.

In one instance remarked upon by the Judge, the freeze brand of a milking cow was altered.
It was later discovered that her ear tags had been changed twice. DNA testing later proved that the animal should have previously left the farm.

Of 828 animals checked as part of the investigation, 123 had discrepancies in relation to their origin and identity, equivalent to 15% of the stock.

The extent and nature of the tagging issues and deliberate changes in identity dwarfed anything previously encountered by officers, and highly unlikely to be by error or mistake.
It was subsequently discovered that the farming operation had received TB compensation payments at a level far above most other farms.

The farm was one of only two in Wales to have had TB present for over 20 years. Since 2009 the farm had received more than £3 million in compensation payments, more than any other farm in Wales.

The prosecution maintained that the large scale illegality underpinned the foundations of the entire farming enterprise over a considerable period of time.

In December 2019, Food Standards Agency veterinary officers placed a stop on 19 carcases and associated offal/edible co-products from two lots of cattle sent for slaughter by the farm, that were destined for the human food chain.

This was due to irregularities concerning the identification and origin of certain animals and potential food chain implications.

Following the conclusion of the court case, Cllr Michelle Bateman, Cabinet Member for Housing Operations and Regulatory Services, welcomed the level of sentence.

She said: “This case will have resulted in unnecessary cost and a drain on resources for those involved in the TB eradication programme, including the major use of public money by Welsh Government who fund the implementation of the compensation scheme.
“It also greatly risks the health of neighbouring herds through unnecessary contamination of the environment as well as damaging the farming industry and public confidence in the safety of milk and meat.
“I congratulate our Council officers and all agencies in bringing this case successfully to court. I hope that this action and sentence will send a message that this sort of illegal behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Farming

Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society in search for county’s top progressive farmers

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IF you farm in Pembrokeshire and can demonstrate your farm’s use of the latest technological methods to promote progressive, sustainable agriculture then the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society encourage you to enter the prestigious Baron de Rutzen Award.

Adam Thorne, Pembrokeshire County Show President, said, “We are looking for local Pembrokeshire farmers, under the age of 45, who can demonstrate their farm’s use of the latest technological methods to promote progressive, sustainable agriculture. They also need to show consideration for the environment and habitat sensitivity on their farm as well as present an aesthetically pleasing example of farming in the county. The competition welcomes all livestock and arable sectors to take part.”

Last year’s winners of the Award were Mark and Caroline Davies of Little Newcastle, Haverfordwest. They milk 230 pedigree Holsteins through a fully automated system. They rear their own replacements and also have a small beef enterprise. The farm is all grassland and they follow a strict reseeding and liming policy to optimise the yield from their multi-cut silage system. The couple place significant emphasis on animal health, husbandry and breeding to maximise the efficiency of their system. 

Baron John Fredrick De Rutzen was President of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society in 1936 and the Baron de Rutzen Trophy was produced in his memory. The third Baron served in the Welsh Guards and tragically died, aged 36, in 1944.   

This year’s entrants must be fully practising farmers within the county of Pembrokeshire and were under the age of 45 years on 1 January 2024. Entries can either be by nomination or direct application online on the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society website. Click here to apply:  Baron de Rutzen Award | Pembrokeshire County Show | Pembs Agricultural Society (pembsshow.org)

The closing date for nominations and applications is at noon on Wednesday, 29 May 2024.

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Farming

Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society elect new president

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ARABLE and beef farmer, Adam Thorne, has been unanimously elected to become the new President of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society for the year ahead. Adam is the third generation of his family to hold the position.

During the Annual General Meeting of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society, held last week on the Pembrokeshire Showground, Mr Tim John and his wife Margaret John were also voted in as Presidents elect.

Adam Thorne has had a long association with Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society. After visiting the show as a toddler, then helping show the family’s pedigree Herefords, his uncle got him into helping him with stewarding in his early teens. From there he progressed to being a Steward with his own section, Commercial Cattle, and then also the Butcher’s Lambs section.

From stewarding, Adam became involved with committee work, starting as an Executive and then on to the former Finance and General Purposes Committee. He has been Chairman of the Estates Committee for 12 years and is now a Board member and a Trustee.

Adam said, “I am proud of my long association with Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society. I am the third generation to now be President, following my late grandfather, Walter Thorne, my father, Robert Thorne and more recently my uncle, George Thorne. I am looking forward to my year in the prestigious position.”

Away from his work with the society, Adam runs the family’s arable and beef farm in Robeston West, Milford Haven. He has been heavily involved with Tiers Cross YFC from an early age, having been Club Secretary twice and Chairman. He has also sat on Pembrokeshire County YFC Committees and the Wales YFC Rural Affairs Committee. 

The 2024 Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society officeholders, announced at the AGM, include Miss Ffion Edwards who was awarded the role of Ambassador at last year’s show. Ffion, a nurse from Maenclochog, has enjoyed many years of attending the county show and believes that there are so many good elements to it. Ffion has been a member of Llysyfran YFC for 15 years and enjoys every aspect of young farmers – trying new experiences, competing and travelling to name a few. Mrs Nicola Owen was also elected as the Honorary Treasurer.   

Brian Jones, the outgoing Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society President, took the opportunity to thank everyone who had helped and supported him throughout his presidency. During his year as President, Brian and his wife Helen, raised a tremendous amount of money for various charities including the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society, RABI, Tir Dewi and the DPJ Foundation. Brian also gave his assurances that Castell Howell will continue to sponsor the Food Hall for future years.

Pembrokeshire County Show, the largest county agricultural show in Wales, will be held over two days again this summer on 14 and 15 August. Everyone is invited to attend the celebration of rural life in the county.

Pictured (left to right): Ffion Edwards the Ambassador for 2024; Adam Thorne, President; Margaret and Tim John, the Presidents Elect.

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Farming

£1,000 bursary award available to Pembrokeshire agricultural students

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PEMBROKESHIRE Agricultural Society’s £1,000 Bursary Award is now open for applications from students studying agriculture, veterinary science, agricultural engineering, food technology, forestry or other subjects allied to agriculture.

The Student Bursary Award 2024 is available to students, from Pembrokeshire, who are currently studying or have been accepted to start their studies. They can apply for this financial support to assist with their chosen college or career path.

Last year’s winner of the award was Lottie Wilson from Hayscastle. Lottie was studying agriculture at the University of Nottingham when she applied for the bursary. When she is at home she is a general dairy farm worker as well as a lambing hand and a calving beef herd assistant. In 2021 she was the top agriculture student at Hartpury College.

Robert James, Chairman of the Society’s Bursary Committee said, “I would urge all Pembrokeshire students who study subjects that are clearly aligned to agriculture to apply for this bursary as it won’t only assist with your studies but will also give you great experiences such as undertaking an interview which is a key employment skill. It will also assist in your future career within the agriculture industry.”

“A panel of independent judges will draw up a short list of candidates who will be interviewed and the winning candidate will be asked to give a short presentation at a future meeting of the society’s show council.

“The standard of applications has always been exceptional which gives a lot of heart that there are a lot of very talented young people in our community. We are very much looking forward to receiving applications for this year’s bursary and hearing from the younger generation.”  

Qualifying students must not have won the student bursary on a previous occasion, the applicant must be studying or has been accepted to study agriculture or allied subjects at a UK college or university at A-Level or higher and the applicant’s family home must be in Pembrokeshire.

The bursary is tax free and will be awarded to the student who, in the opinion of the panel of judges, has submitted the best dissertation on how the bursary will assist them to complete their course of study.

Further details and the entry form can be found online: Student Bursary Award | Pembrokeshire County Show | Pembs Agricultural Society (pembsshow.org)  or by calling the show office: 01437 764331. The closing date for applications is noon on Monday, 1 July 2024.

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