A LANGLEY farmer is warning the public about the dangers of releasing balloons into the atmosphere following the death of one of his calves.

John Davison, of Lough Green Farm, Langley, was doing his usual early morning round, checking his livestock, when he came across the calf, a Limousin cross, lying dead in a field.

“I wasn’t sure what the matter with it was,” he said. “But it had to go to a collection centre for dead stock and you can have a postmortem done, so I arranged one.

“The vet rang back and said it had a helium balloon just at the entrance to its stomach.” The cord attached stretched up the calf’s throat, preventing the balloon from going any further through its digestive system.

“Its stomach was blocked, so it couldn’t regurgitate food or get rid of gases as it normally would, so it bloated and died of a heart attack.”

Besides being left with a bad taste in his mouth about the unpleasant nature of the calf’s death, John is also hundreds of pounds out of pocket.

He tends to buy calves at six or seven months old, rears them for a year and then sells them on as forward store cattle.

“This one, I bought it last October – I paid nearly £800 – and then fed it all winter. On top of that, I had to pay the £60 for it to be taken away and another £60 for the postmortem

“If I’d sold it the day before it died, I would have made in the region of £1,050 to £1,100, so its death has cost me the thick end of £1,200 – and I wasn’t insured, not for that type of thing happening.”

From time to time, John has come across deflated balloons lying in his fields and picked them up to dispose of them. He thought, on this occasion, it hadn’t been so much the balloon that killed the calf, but the cord that had prevented it being swallowed.

“That did the damage,” he said. “If it had just been the balloon, it would probably have passed through. But people do need to think twice before releasing balloons – they need to be aware of the dangers.

“Chinese lanterns, too. They can be very dangerous, especially if they land on arable crops when it’s dry. The candles can set fire to the crops.”

John is steeling himself for another ‘parting’ in that he’s about to sell his flock of Bleu du Maines, which he and his wife, Kathleen, established at Lough Green in 1990.

“I’m past retirement age as it is,” he said. “So I’m just slowly winding down to it now. I don’t have as much stock nowadays.”

The one time chairman and subsequently president of the Bleu du Maine Sheep Society added: “I’m keeping my Texels though, for a bit longer at least.”