The whistleblower whose tip-off ultimately led to 62 top-class Limousins having their passports withheld, has urged the breed society to take a tougher stance on data recording.
The cattle had their passports withdrawn in May this year after the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) found “errors relating to the registration of either the date of birth and/or the parentage of the animals concerned”.
Some of Britain’s best-known pedigree Limousin progeny were among the animals involved, including Ballinloan Jaegerbomb.
Doubts about Jaegerbomb’ s parentage first came to light in March 2018, and an investigation revealed the bull’s dam had been incorrectly recorded.
Initially it appeared the situation had been resolved with an agreed amendment to records. But a joint Trading Standards/BCMS investigation continued and uncovered anomalies in the registration of 61 other animals.
It has now emerged that doubts about one of the 62 animals, Ballinloan Jericho, were first raised long before the issues surrounding Jaegerbomb made the headlines in 2018.
The whistle-blower, himself a Limousin breeder, said weight gains recorded for the young animal were unachievable in the time period claimed and he questioned the birth dates. Unable to resolve the query satisfactorily, he then began a long, privately funded investigation.
During a three-year operation costing £100,000, the whistle-blower employed private investigators, who used long-range surveillance equipment to record the tag numbers of calves at grass. Hair samples were also collected for DNA analysis to ascertain parentage.
In some cases, birth dates and tag numbers appeared not to tally with the photographic evidence obtained and this information was shared with the breed society and other regulatory bodies.
Trading Standards officers and the BCMS followed up the allegations and their investigations ultimately led to the withdrawal of cattle passports.
The whistle-blower is now calling for the British Limousin Cattle Society to crack down on errors by tightening up its recording and monitoring of member activities.
“The last thing I want is to cause harm to the breed society and its members,” he told Farmers Weekly. “But we must tighten recording procedures to get rid of any doubts and restore confidence in the breed.”
He called for two significant changes to be implemented. First, a calf’s pedigree credentials should be registered no longer than 28 days after its birth, bringing it in line with BCMS requirements.
Second, all animals in the top 1% of sales values should register the calf within 24 hours of its birth. This would allow society officials to go to visit the breeder within a week of the calf’s registration to inspect the calf and verify its birth date.