Hundreds of cows, calves and sheep are being sent to meatworks in an injured, diseased or pregnant state, violating new animal welfare rules and prompting instant fines.
Legislation brought in last October allows the Ministry for Primary Industries to fine farmers and transport providers for low-level animal offending rather than having to go through a full prosecution process.
Cattle with cancer in their eyes, sheep with ingrown horns digging into their faces, cows giving birth in slaughter house pens, lameness in animals and mastitis are among the 431 offences vets have spotted at meatworks over the past eight months.
The breaches now result in instant $500 fines which MPI's acting compliance manager Gary Orr said saved prosecution processes and dealt with them quickly.
"All of these things are either preventable, as in the case with pregnant cows, or treatable, and as such none of those animals should be put on the truck until they're treated or can be euthanised on the farm if they're untreatable," he said.
Mr Orr said in most cases the animals were suffering during the sometimes long trips to the meatworks.
"Don't extend the suffering by putting the animal on a truck and having it travel for extended periods of time. If it's so sick that it should be put down then you don't do it through the works, you should do it through the farm."
Mr Orr said in the scheme of things the numbers were very small - with nearly two million bobby calves sent to the works last year there were fines relating to 228 beef cattle offences, 98 dairy cattle offences, 35 offences for calves and 57 for sheep.
Federated Farmers spokesman Miles Anderson said most of those related to 'backrub' among cattle, whose backs became raw after rubbing during truck trips to slaughterhouses.
He said farmers were working with the transport industry to address the problem.
"I guess over the last few years animals have grown and the transport crates have stayed the same size," Mr Anderson said.
Animal advocacy group SAFE said the welfare breaches were a concerning aspect of farming.
SAFE head of campaigns Marianne Macdonald said an independent group was needed to keep the animals safe.
"The solution for the problems in the enforcement and regulation of animal welfare is that we need an independent animal welfare body that's got the powers and the funding to be able to effectively monitor and care for animals and farms in New Zealand," she said.
MPI said it expected the number of instant fines for animal welfare breaches to drop as more farmers came into line with the new legislation.