Horse business 'fruitless'

WELL-known Kenilworth district horse breeder Stan Johnston had no choice about chopping down all his fruit trees, when the latest Hendra virus outbreak hit the headlines this week.

“I’ve got to look after my staff and horses,” he said.

The valuable fruit trees did not compare in importance to the horses bred and trained on his property.

And nor did the fruit bats which are a major carrier of the lethal disease, which can spread from bats to horses and from there to humans.

Mr Johnston said yesterday he had to give priority to the welfare of staff and horses at his Craiglea stud, in the Mary Valley.

He said he was under no obligation to put on a smorgasbord for potentially dangerous fruit bats.

“Anyway, I did it. I don’t care,” he said defiantly yesterday, half expecting to be criticised for taking action to protect his business and staff.

“I’ve also got a responsibility to people like vets who may have to come to the property to help with sick horses.”

The valuable fruit trees had become too much of a danger to his property’s major business operation, the production of high-quality thoroughbred horses.

“People come before those stupid things,” he said of the potential flying fox menace which can carry the lethal virus and transmit it to horses and then to people.

“If I have a sick horse, I need the vet to be able to come out without having to put on a protective suit every time.

“Our business is horses, breeding racing lines. That’s what we do for a living.

“We can’t afford to have anything interfere with that,” Mr Johnston said

“We haven’t seen any bats here, but we don’t want to either.

“This is serious. It is dangerous.”

He said native fig trees were a major problem at this time of year, and as far as he could observe, they were the only fruit bat food source that really flourished at this time of year.

Reports yesterday indicated that horse deaths from the virus so far were in the leisure horse sector rather than the racing thoroughbred industry.

Gympie Times

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