The jail term handed down to a farmer who abused cows and calves in his care sends a strong message that kind of offending will not be tolerated, the Ministry for Primary Industries says.
Malcolm Wood was sentenced at Palmerston North District Court yesterday to two years in prison, and his wife Cheryl Wood was fined $30,000.
The couple were also ordered to pay nearly $12,000 in court costs and have been banned from from owning large animals for five years - the maximum term.
They pleaded guilty this year to multiple charges under the Animal Welfare Act, which included wilful ill treatment and reckless ill treatment of cows and calves that were part of a dairy herd they were in charge of.
MPI's director of compliance, Gary Orr, said animal welfare inspectors found many of 500-plus cows and calves on the Opiki property were in an extremely poor condition and were suffering physiological stress due to prolonged under-feeding.
"There were multiple incidents of severe neglect. Some of the calves that were found were in such poor condition that they had to be euthanised.
"These calves were in a state of physiological stress resulting from severe malnourishment and should have been euthanised much earlier in order to end their suffering," Mr Orr said.
Mr Orr said Mr and Mrs Wood also failed to take any steps to address the malnourishment of the 167 cows that comprised of the milking herd. Instead, they continued to walk these cows to the milking shed twice a day in spite of their poor condition and low quantities of milk, he said.
A veterinarian found that multiple management issues had contributed to the farm's animal welfare issues, including insufficient feed and pasture on the farm and insufficient labour to satisfactorily run the farm, Mr Orr said.
"This is a very sad case that could have been avoided if farm practices were optimal. We are urging farmers who find themselves in difficulty to reach out to their local Rural Support Trust who are there to provide support and assistance when times are tough."
Mr Orr said the sentence imposed by the court reflected the severity of the offending, and sent a clear message to those neglecting their animals that there were real consequences in doing so.