16 Aug 2017

'It's just not okay for animals to be treated in this manner'

12:56 pm on 16 August 2017

A Southland dairy company has been fined nearly $60,000 by a court after what has been called one of the worst cases of long-term neglect in the dairy sector.

Cows, milking

Cows in a milking shed (stock photo). Photo: 123RF

Castlerock Dairies and its managers Dean McMillan and Jared Matthews were sentenced in Invercargill District Court after earlier pleading guilty to eight charges under the Animal Welfare Act.

The two men, who each managed 2000 cows, were also ordered to do 275 hours community service.

The neglect led to 193 dairy cows being put down and another 761 requiring treatment due to severe lameness.

The company failed to maintain lanes to cow sheds on two properties, which MPI Manager of Compliance Investigations Gary Orr said was catastrophic.

"The walk to the milking sheds, because of the mud and the distance from the paddocks to the sheds, would take up to three hours one way during which time the lame animals would have been in significant pain."

"The lanes had not been adequately maintained for about two years which is what contributed to the situation," Mr Orr said.

"The lack of work on the tracks was known to the defendants. As the animals walked long distances for milking, the lameness got worse. The tracks weren't repaired to prevent this."

Fourteen vets spent weeks at the farms to treat the animals.

Mr Orr said one vet with more than 18 years experience called the situation disturbing.

"He described it as unparalleled and unprecedented in his direct experience. Another witness described it as 'horrible' and the worst case of neglect she had ever seen." Mr Orr said.

The company was fined $37,500 and ordered to pay more than $11,500 in prosecution costs.

The two farm managers were each fined $10,000.

"The suffering of these animals was fully preventable. Fortunately, offending on this scale has been rare in New Zealand," Mr Orr said.

DairyNZ supported the prosecution, and said it sent a clear message to anyone with animals.

"What occurred at Castlerock farm in 2015 is appalling. It's just not okay for animals to be treated in this manner," DairyNZ's animal welfare specialist, Helen Thoday said.

"The farming community around New Zealand will be appalled - they care about their animals, and treat them with care and respect."

"This case of mistreatment is a sad slur on the good reputation of the thousands of good dairy farmers who are committed to providing their animals with a healthy and safe environment, and farming to high standards.