A FARMER who was banned for 10 years from keeping pigs and cattle after admitting cruelty charges two years ago has been jailed for 56 days after being caught milking cows at a farm near Ross-on-Wye.

Keith Barber, aged 72, of Joys Green, Lydbrook, was also sentenced at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court for five charges relating to the welfare of sheep and the failure to dispose of carcasses properly, plus three charges relating to failing to provide a suitable environment for two Collie sheep dogs.

A Herefordshire Council spokesperson said: "Following an investigation by Herefordshire Animal Health & Welfare Trading Standards service Barber was found once again to be in breach of the disqualification order.

"Mr Barber had throughout this period been acting as a relief milker on a Herefordshire farm near Ross-on-Wye."

Magistrates heard that Barber was first banned for 10 years in February 2019 under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in regards to pigs and cattle, following an investigation by Gloucestershire County Council’s trading standards service.

He was also given an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, after being convicted of eight animal welfare offences.

He was back in court in March 2020 for breaching the ban after being secretly filmed feeding cows on his son’s Mitcheldean farm, and has now pleaded guilty to breaching the ban again and further charges.

At sentencing earlier this month, Cheltenham magistrates activated the suspended sentence he had previously been given and sentenced him to a total of 56 days in custody.

He was also ordered to pay a total of £415 towards costs, a £50 victim surcharge and given an indefinite lifetime disqualification order for all animals except his pet dog.

His appearance in court followed investigations by Herefordshire Animal Health & Welfare Team, Gloucestershire County Council Trading Standards Service and the Forest of Dean District Council.

David Hough, Herefordshire Council’s Trading Standards Service Manager, said: "These cases show that the farmer had complete disregard to the banning order in three different areas.

"Herefordshire Council will continue to work with all livestock keepers to ensure that best practice is maintained on farms and small holdings, but we will not tolerate animal suffering and action will be taken against anyone who disregards the welfare of farmed animals."

Barber was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment for breaching his suspended sentence, plus 14 days for each for the other three cases, making a total of 56 days.

The prosecution over the dogs was brought by the Forest of Dean District Council’s Street Warden Team after they found Barber’s dogs being kept in poor conditions on his small-holding in September 2018.

Visits were conducted after a complaint was received regarding a distressed dog barking on the site. The dogs were found to be housed in a small kennel with little exercise area, which prevented them from being able to foul and urinate away from their sleeping area.

In October 2018 a statutory improvement notice was issued to Barber to make improvements to the site and the kennels in which the dogs were kept.

A Forest Council spokesperson said: "After the notice was served further visits from the Street Warden Team in 2019 were conducted and only one dog remained on site, however the conditions had not improved even though an exercise area had been constructed.

"There were indications of rats on site with no evidence of vermin control. Close to where the dog was housed was a large muck pile, which the wardens deemed was of concern to due to the risk of disease.

"There was evidence of pools of slurry and/or faeces on site. On another part of the farm, there was a lamb that was feeding from a trough from which rats were also feeding.

"It was the council’s opinion that whilst the defendant initially complied with the first Improvement Notice by extending the kennel, his behaviour since then had shown a wilful refusal to attend to the basic needs of his dogs."

Barber was first prosecuted by Gloucestershire Trading Standards in 2019 after inspectors found cattle and pigs at his Joys Green farm mired in deep muck with nowhere dry to lie down.

Some of the cows had extensive hair loss and many were very thin, while a dead calf and dead pigs were also found on the premises.

He was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison suspended for two years with financial penalties of £2,615 and was banned for 10 years from keeping pigs and cows.

But he flouted the ban and was secretly filmed feeding cattle six miles away at his son’s farm in Mitcheldean, leading to another appearance in court in March 2020.

That saw him sentenced to 18 weeks in prison suspended for two years with 100 hours of unpaid work and £2,300 in financial penalties.

The court last year heard he had a "cavalier attitude towards the welfare of his animals" and had "gone to great lengths" to flout the ban.

Inspectors also discovered an extremely thin dead sheep on a filthy bed of wet muck at his farm alongside two other live sheep, which were showing signs of sheep scab, which causes itching and soreness and is painful.

A dead turkey and a dead chicken were also found in other pens on the farm.

Farmers are legally required to treat any sheep displaying signs of scab but despite being advised to call his vet to inspect and treat the sheep, Barber failed to do so, leading to new charges.

Forest councillor Nicky Packer said: "We must do all we can to prevent animals being subjected to such neglect.

"I would like to thank everyone involved in investigating this case, and bringing this successful prosecution.

"I also thank the public for their vigilance, and encourage anyone who has concerns about the welfare of an animal to report it to us so that the appropriate action can be taken."