The trial of Buckinghamshire horse trader James Gray has been extended for a week to make time for his defence case.

The case at Bicester Magistrates Court had been due to finish on Friday, 6 March, but on Thursday (26 February) district judge Andrew Vickers extended the trial until 13 March.

James Gray, 44, his wife Julie, 41, daughters Jodie, 26, and Cordelia, 20, and a 15-year-old youth who cannot be named, each deny 12 charges of cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, for allegedly failing to meet the welfare needs of 132 horses, ponies and donkeys.

The defence case started on Thursday after eight weeks of prosecution evidence.

Mr Gray told the court that none of his animals had seemed “depressed or ill” and the run of deaths before the RSPCA visited his property, Spindle Farm in Hyde Heath, on 5 January 2008 had been unusual.

In the course of four days the RSPCA removed 111 horses, ponies and donkeys, said to be in an emaciated state, and found a further 31 animals dead.

Mr Gray explained that he was solely responsible for the horses, ponies and donkeys at the farm.

He said he ran a limited company — Gray’s Horses Limited — dealing in between 2,300 and 2,400 animals a year. Of these “nine or 10” would die, he said.

He denied that the horses were poorly fed and housed, saying he put hay in the pens twice a day and changed the bedding every two or three days.

Poor weather had meant the bedding had been wet when the RSPCA visited in January 2008, he said, and the overcrowding reported by the RSPCA had been caused temporarily when he brought the donkeys under cover due to the rain.

The case continues.