A WEALTHY landowner who left more than 350 sheep and cows to starve to death on his farm has been barred from keeping animals for life.

John Ferguson, who owns a string of garages, a nightclub and a multimillion-pound wind farm operation, narrowly avoided jail.

Sheriff Lindsay Foulis told him the maximum sentence he could impose would effectively mean little more than two months in prison and instead ordered Ferguson, 50, to carry out the maximum 300 hours of unpaid work.

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Scottish SPCA inspectors found a scene of carnage on his land in Alyth, Perthshire. The catalogue of horror, discovered after an anonymous tip-off, included the skeletal remains of 340 sheep and 14 cows.

Perth Sheriff Court was told yesterday one cow had died giving birth and had been left with her dead calf's leg protruding.

Ferguson admitted two charges relating to the unnecessary suffering of beasts on his farm. Mark Stewart, QC, defending, said Ferguson had a "minor breakdown", adding: "This has been a catastrophic event in his life."