'It's a real tragedy': Farmer warns Guernsey cattle at risk of being left without vet

Livestock in Guernsey will be left without emergency medical care from Friday 1 December as the only specialist vet leaves the island, and their replacement will only visit the island two days a month.

Farmers warn it could mean some sick animals which previously would have survived may have to be put down, including the island's 2,500-strong dairy herd.

The current care provider, Isabelle Vets, is losing its only farm vet with "no permanent replacement" available.

Going forward, all livestock - including goats, pigs and sheep - will only have access to a specialist vet once a month.

Michael Bray, the president of Guernsey's Farming Association told ITV News it's been a "real tragedy" for the industry.

He said: "We've lost basically our hospital care, our emergency care and basically our pharmaceutical care, so it's a big issue for farmers at the moment on the island.

"We've had two incidents in the last couple of weeks where the cows if the vet hadn't been there would have been euthanised and that's just not on really.

"That's just not fair to the animals, it's not fair to the farmers and it's not fair to everyone else who is buying the products, so we're really disappointed as to where this has ended up."

Farmer Michael Bray says "nobody wants to keep an animal suffering" and livestock may have to be put down if treatment isn't available

He added: "I think the emotional stress that this is adding to farmers is huge because there's going to be a point where we have an animal that we just can't treat and we have no one to call now.

"We as farmers will bundle together and help each other out but there are going to be cases where we have to euthanise the animal because there is no other option, nobody wants to keep an animal suffering."

Guernsey's States Vet, David Chamberlain said: "There are some areas where we may be under threat, but we are working with the people who provide us with these assurances and these accreditation schemes and we are trying to find ways of maintaining the standards without reducing animal welfare and maintaining our part of that assurance scheme."

The Environment & Infrastructure Committee declined to comment on the situation, but Deputy Peter Roffey, the politician who leads the States Trading Supervisory Board - which runs the dairy - said it's "incredibly regrettable".

Deputy Peter Roffey raised concerns that animals may have to be put down which previously could have been treated.

He said: "Clearly it's not a matter that falls within the States gambit and certainly not within my committee's mandate, but being responsible for the dairy work closely with dairy farmers, we were aware that this was happening and it's incredibly regrettable.

"I hope we can find a way or they can find a way between them and the providers of veterinary services to address this because otherwise, there will be not healthy animals, but animals who will frankly have to be put down because there won't be the skill set on the island to intervene."

Isabelle Vets has cared for the island's livestock for decades, but has been unable to find a specialist to take over from the departing vet

Isabelle Vets says it is proud to have "delivered the highest levels of care to animals on Guernsey for more than 100 years" and the changes are due to the only farm vet leaving the practice.

In a statement, the company said: "We have been working closely with farmers, the States Veterinary Officer and the Guernsey Farmers’ Association over the past few months to discuss a service going forward.

"To ensure the ongoing veterinary care of herds and flocks on the island, VetPartners, the larger veterinary group Isabelle Vets is part of, will deliver a remote service with a farm vet visiting from the mainland, starting from Friday 1 December."

Despite assurances, the RSPCA said it is "extremely concerned to hear about proposed changes".

The charity said this could place "the lives of hundreds of dairy cattle at risk. We urgently call for a resolution to this as soon as possible.

“For dairy farms to only be provided with veterinary cover one to two days a week, every one to two months would mean sick or injured cows not receiving timely or urgent treatment and their welfare and lives being put at considerable risk."

It added that virtual vet visits are not "an acceptable or adequate substitute for regular in-person visits", saying: "This is especially the case in emergency situations where a physical veterinary examination is paramount and prompt, appropriate action is necessary to protect the welfare of the animal."

The move also means that dairy farms in Guernsey which are RSPCA Assured certified will no longer meet the organisation's higher welfare standards, which the island's dairy farms qualified for last year.

It concluded: “Not only does this proposal pose a major welfare risk to the animals but also to the staff caring for them. Not being able to provide prompt veterinary care when needed, has the potential to cause significant stress and financial worry for many farm workers."

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