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"I've never heard of anything on this scale, anywhere in the world"

Wednesday 21 December 2022

"I've never heard of anything on this scale, anywhere in the world"

Wednesday 21 December 2022

One of the world's leading experts on the Jersey dairy herd has said it will take years to recover from the loss of 112 cows at Woodlands Farm.

Investigations are now underway as to what caused the death of so many local cattle at the same time, with vets so far saying it's unlikely to have been any form of contagious disease.

The significance of the loss of so many cows was highlighted by Derrick Frigot, past president of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society and the World Jersey Cattle Bureau, who is a renowned expert on the Jersey breed.

"I've never heard of anything on this scale, anywhere in the world – it's a devastating blow," he said. "I live very close to Woodlands and I've seen Richard [Le Boutillier] grow up and develop the farm from having no more than ten cows to becoming the Island's highest-producing herd and so important to industry."

Mr Frigot said that the Woodlands herd was based on bloodlines going back generations, with its development moving to a new dimension following the 2008 decision to allow the importation of bovine semen for use in breeding.

He estimated that cows at Woodlands Farm produced an annual average of around 7,600 litres of milk per cow, compared to an average Island figure of 6,000.

Rebuilding a herd would be a time-consuming process, Mr Frigot added.

"There are heifers on the farm that will grow and eventually calve, but that will take several years," he said.

Meanwhile, the island's Island's Economic Development Minister has said officials are working with the dairy industry to try and provide some support. 

Kirsten Morel Farming Conference.jpg

Pictured: Deputy Morel said his officials are working on a plan to support the dairy sector after the loss of so many cattle. 

Deputy Kirsten Morel said: "The Woodlands herd has been extremely important both because of its scale and the amount of milk that it produces.

"We don't have a definite cause as yet and are waiting for toxicology results – this detail will influence what action is needed, but we have reached out to farmers to set out an industry-wide recovery plan which I would want to start implementing in January."

The plan would involve specific work with Woodlands, but also more widely with a dairy industry that has suffered the loss of around 5% of the Island-wide total of milking cows, he added.

Deputy Morel said he was heartened by the way the industry had rallied round to support the Le Boutillier family, who have farmed at Woodlands for five generations, and pleased to have been advised that local milk supplies would not be affected by the recent incident.


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