A number of potential causes, including those of any “notifiable diseases”, for the death of 100 cows in Jersey have been ruled out, the island’s government said today (Thursday, January 26).

The cattle fell ill and died in the space of just a few days in December 2022, after which samples from both the animals and their feed were sent to be analysed to determine the cause of death.

The animal tissue samples taken by the farmer’s private vet ruled out diseases such as Anthrax, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and foot-and-mouth disease, the government said.

The findings of the initial testing on the animal tissue samples are being used to help focus the secondary testing of the animal feed. The government said that this is likely to take some time and may not be conclusive.

However, experts have a working theory.

Director of Natural Environment, Willie Peggie, 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.”

Jersey cows

The cattle that died in Jersey were part of the Le Boutillier family’s herd on the Woodlands Farm.

Following the retrieval of samples, the animals were then sent to the Animal Carcass Incinerator.

At the time, Eamon Fenlon, the managing director of Jersey Dairy, said he was “totally devastated” by what happened to the cows.

Jersey Dairy, the dairy producers on the island, reassured the public that it was an isolated incident and that no other farms had been affected.

“Losing a part of a herd like this is heartbreaking. We can’t imagine how difficult this is for Charlie (farmer), his family and all at Woodlands,” Fenlon said.

“Words cannot express the heartache we feel for them, and we cannot begin to understand the shock that they must be feeling.

“We hope they can find the strength and guidance to bring them through this difficult and tragic time.

“We are very grateful to all who rallied around over the weekend to help at Woodlands in this time of need. It was heartening to see that community spirit.