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Smallholder banned from keeping animals after sheep are found starved and mutilated

A smallholder whose sheep were found starved and mutilated has been banned from keeping farm animals for five years after a prosecution by Cornwall Council inspectors.

Nicholas Holley, 51, from Tramside Farm, Portreath, pleaded guilty when he appeared before Truro Magistrates Court last week.

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He was charged with:

  1. Failing to provide adequate food to his flock of sheep
  2. Allowing sheep to have access to collapsed fencing and broken machinery that could have injured them
  3. Mutilating a sheep by docking its tail so short that the tail did not cover its vulva
  4. Failing to shear or provide shade to sheep in August 2019
  5. On 10 September 2019 caused unnecessary suffering to a sheep by failing to notice it was trapped or to release it from being trapped.

Kevin Hill, prosecuting, told the court that Holley had gone on holiday and left a friend caring for 50 sheep at the smallholding near Redruth despite the friend having no previous experience of sheep husbandry. 

Many of the sheep were emaciated yet had no supplementary feed, and the sheep had access to scrap and collapsed fencing.  On a revisit officers of the Council found a sheep trapped in a fence; it had been trapped for at least 24 hours and once released was hungry and thirsty.

In January 2020 the sheep were not being fed hay and had strayed onto neighbouring land and roadside verges to forage.  Mr Holley had been cautioned for similar offences in 2018.

The magistrates gave credit for the early guilty plea and genuine remorse.

In sentencing, Holley was banned from keeping farm animals for five years, given a two year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £5,000 towards the council’s costs. 

Stuart Benson, the Head of Business Standards and Registration for Cornwall Council, said: “This case involved a vet from DEFRA and four animal health inspectors handling and inspecting sheep to ensure they were in good health. 

“It clearly demonstrates that we will always take action to ensure that standards are met in our farming industry, and should send a clear message to anyone thinking about trying to cut corners.”

Councillor Rob Nolan, portfolio holder for Public Protection, said: “Where officers find repeated non-compliance or a complete disregard for farm animal welfare, the council will take formal action to protect animals and the reputation of the Cornish farming industry.”