On New Zealand’s southern island a large dairy has been fined almost $42,000 (NZ$60,000) after pleading guilty to multiple charges of neglect that led to 193 cows being euthanized.
According to New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries, Castlerock Dairies Limited and two manager who ran separate farms for the corporation pled guilty to eight charges under the Animal Welfare Act prior to sentencing in the Invercargill District Court on Aug. 15.
The dairies located at the southern tip of the country near the community of Invercargill were managed by 41-year-old Jared Matthews and 44-year-old Dean McMillan. Matthews and McMillan managed dairies that were 1,729 acres (700 hectares) in size with 2,000 cows at each location. Both managers were convicted and fined $7,235 (NZ$10,000) each, ordered to pay court costs of $94 (NZ$130) each and were both sentenced to 275 hours community service.
Castlerock Dairies Limited was convicted and fined $27,131 (NZ$37,500) and ordered to pay prosecution costs of more than $8,320 (NZ$11,500).
Charges were brought against the dairy and two managers by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in 2015 after reports of animal abuse were made.
Offenses included a failure to maintain lanes used to move cows to pastures to parlors at both farms. Lanes should have constant maintenance to prevent lameness, however this did not happen.
When MPI officials arrived at the farms the lanes were in disrepair with mud and excrement knee deep in places.
MPI Manager of Compliance Investigations, Gary Orr, says the lameness suffered by cows was so severe that there was no way to treat the animals.
Repairs had not been made to the lanes in approximately two years. Orr reports because of distance and mud it took cows three hours traveling one-way for lame animals to arrive from the grazing paddocks to parlors.
“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,” Orr says.
Fourteen veterinarians spent several weeks accessing the properties and cattle to assist staff for MPI. By the end of their investigation 193 cows were euthanized and another 761 required veterinary treatment.
Several cows were also dehorned because their horns had become ingrown from a lack of intervention by the managers.
Veterinarians described the scene as “disturbing,” “beyond comprehension” and “worst case of neglect she had ever seen.”
Orr worries it could have an impact on the industry in New Zealand.
“As well as the humanitarian grounds, failure to meet animal welfare requirements could have serious consequences for the wider agricultural industry,” Orr says.
MPI reports that abuse on this scale is uncommon in New Zealand.
For 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects New Zealand to produce 21.9 million metric tons of milk, surpassing record production marks set in 2014. The island country is expected to export 3.34 million metric tons of finished dairy products this year.
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