Cow deaths: Some test results revealed but true cause may never be known

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SEVERAL possible causes of the mass death of cows at a Jersey farm last month have been ruled out following testing.

More than 100 cows at Woodlands Farm in St Helier died over the course of several days.

The deaths shocked the farming community, with several people in the dairy industry saying they had never known so many cows to die so suddenly.

The Environment Department said it has a ‘working theory and strong confidence in what caused the cows to die so suddenly’ but has admitted that it may never know for sure.

Animal tissue samples taken by the farmer’s private vet were immediately sent for analysis following the deaths.

A number of possible diagnoses that can cause high mortality in cattle were ruled out, including notifiable diseases such as Anthrax, BSE and Foot and Mouth Disease.

Samples of the feed taken by the government’s Natural Environment team are currently being tested at a laboratory in the UK.

The government said that the findings of the initial testing on the animal tissue samples are being used to help focus the secondary testing.

This is likely to take some time and may not be conclusive, the government said.

Willie Peggie, director of Natural Environment, said: ‘We have a working theory and strong
confidence in what caused the cows to die so suddenly, however it would be unprofessional,
unwise and without scientific rigour to state that publicly just yet, until the further testing of the
feed is complete.

‘We can say that no “notifiable disease” has been found, and that this is an isolated incident.

‘We continue to work closely with the private vet, the farmer and the laboratories.

‘The testing is a process of elimination, and this means that the most we may be able to provide is a likely explanation of the cause, rather than one that is absolutely definitive.’

The significance of the loss of so many cows was highlighted last month 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.

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