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Sheep farmer’s “appalling” record

A SHETLAND sheep farmer has been given two weeks to convince Lerwick Sheriff Court that he should not be disqualified from looking after animals after dead and dying sheep were found on his farm, on the island of Yell.

Laurence Johnson, of Windhouse Farm, Mid Yell, had admitted three charges of causing unnecessary suffering to nine Shetland sheep, one Shetland ram, and also failing to look after a number of unburied carcasses at an earlier court hearing.

On Wednesday the court heard that Johnson had been visited by an inspector from the Scottish SPCA on 12 January after the animal welfare charity had been alerted by neighbours to the state of the sheep kept in a park near to the farm house.

Defence solicitor Tommy Allan told the court that at the time his client had been ill with the vomiting bug and had been unable to leave the house to feed his animals.

The court heard that when spoken to by the SSPCA, the attitude of the 52 year old had been one of “couldn’t care less”.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said that there had been no feeding regime in place on the farm despite the wintry conditions.

Mr Allan said his client’s vet was now in the process of setting up an inspection and monitoring system to ensure that Johnson was keeping to an appropriate husbandry regime for his 1,800 sheep.

But Sheriff Graeme Napier said he found it difficult to believe that Johnson had been so ill that he was unable to attend to his sheep which were only 80 steps from the farm house.

He added that Johnson had left it very late to deal with the situation having done nothing about it during the last eight months.

Mr Allan said his client was well aware of the fact that the future of his business was on the line. The court heard that Johnson makes annual profits of around £40,000 from farming sheep.

Sheriff Napier told Johnson: “This is an appalling situation, and it is even more appalling that hardly any progress has been made since January.

“I give you two weeks to persuade me that you shouldn’t be disqualified from keeping animals.”

Sentence on Johnson has been deferred until 3 November.