A bachelor farmer has been given nine months by a court to prove he is capable of looking after his herd of cattle appropriately. Seventy-seven-year-old John Hoster of Cloonmore, Ballyfarna, Claremorris, was before Claremorris District Court (sitting in Castlebar) last week on charges of neglecting the welfare of his cattle.
Veterinary Inspector, Peter Byrne told the court that he had visited the farm on July 13, 2016, on foot of a report received by Garda John Horkan. “I found a cow lying down with a rope tied around her neck and onto a post and another [connected to this] tied to a tree. This was done in an effort to keep the cow from lying on her back,” Mr Byrne said.
After he failed to meet Mr Hoster, Mr Byrne returned with a vet the following day and discovered the animal had been moved to a different position but was still ‘audibly groaning’ and didn’t have access to water. He also discovered another animal in a distressed condition at another area of Mr Hoster’s farm.
“I met with Mr Hoster and he told me the second animal had got stuck in a drain more than a week earlier,” Mr Byrne said.
Judge Mary Devins was shown photographs of the animals, one of which displayed pressure sores. The court heard that a local vet had attended the first animal and that Hoster had acquired medicines for the second one.
Mr Byrne proceeded to check the other 45 animals on the farm and found some to be in a reasonable condition but others poorly.
He directed that both animals should be euthanised and sent to a local knackery.
Judge Devins asked: “What happened to the other animals on the farm?”
“They are still on the farm. I inspected them yesterday and they are being fed and in better condition.”
Defending solicitor Alison Keane told the court her client was 77 years of age, had no family, save a niece whom he only occasionally sees.
“He did have some insight,” she said. “He called the vet and also got medicines.” Ms Keane added that her client did ‘not want to sell up’.
Judge Devins asked Mr Byrne if he felt the accused ‘should continue to farm’.
“He has previously been told to reduce his herd. He is coping at the moment, but you would feel there could be a deterioration in the future. It is a farm we have had a number of complaints about,” Mr Byrne said.
Considering the issues, Judge Devins said that she was more concerned about the ‘welfare of the animals’ than the imposition of a Class A fine.
“I’ll put the matter back for penalties to be considered until December 5 next,” she said. Then addressing Mr Hoster, Judge Devins added: “I am giving you a chance until then to see if you are fit and able to look after 45 animals. If not, I will impose a fine and make an order that you can never hold livestock again.”