A FARMER has been handed a suspended prison sentence for the “significant and unnecessary” suffering he inflicted on animals on a farm in County Durham.

Ian Bulman of Field House Farm, Satley, has been sentenced to 14 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay a total of £715 after pleading guilty to 10 charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The case at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court followed an investigation by Durham County Council’s community and animal health inspector.

A concerned member of the public reported to the council that they had seen a sheep in distress and unable to stand, together with multiple sheep carcasses, in a field at Coalford Lane, which is rented and farmed by Bulman.

On the March 27 2018 the inspector visited the field and immediately discovered two sheep carcasses and an emaciated live lamb, which upon first glance appeared to be lifeless.

On further inspection an additional nine sheep carcasses were discovered in various states of decomposition across the field and marsh area.

Inside a small stone building, where the floor was covered in a layer of deep compacted mud, a further seven carcasses were discovered. Also in this building were live sheep, seen to be trampling those sheep that had collapsed. In an adjacent building a small live calf was found in a damp and dirty room along with the carcasses of two calves and three sheep, which had been covered in plastic sheets.

Any live sheep on the farm were in a poor bodily condition, their fleeces were scruffy with areas of wool missing. The vet who attended the site along with the inspector said that the loss of wool was likely due to lice or sheep scab.

Bulman had said that in February the sheep were given additional silage, hay bags and grass mix, but they were reluctant to eat the winter food and preferred to graze, meaning they lost weight and mobility.

The defendant claimed that he had contacted a company to remove the animals but due to the extreme weather in March last year he knew it would be some days before they could come out to collect them, therefore he wrapped them for protection. He also said the snowy weather had meant he couldn’t get to his land via vehicle and had to walk 1.5 miles on foot.

He said he works alone as he cannot afford to pay anyone else to come and help him due to being unable to make a profit, and problems with his health had restricted his ability to work. He despaired with what had happened as animals are his life.