Federated Farmers says a South Island company's abuse of nearly 400 cows is not representative of the rest of the industry.
MilkPride originally faced 625 charges of failing to provide more than 1000 cows with sufficient food and water, as well as wilfully ill-treating them.
But in the Rotorua District Court yesterday, the company pleaded guilty to one representative charge of failing to provide proper and sufficient food to 392 dairy cows on Taharua Farm near Taupo.
The condition of cows seen by government inspectors and staff was so poor several had to be destroyed, while others were emaciated and unable to sit comfortably.
Feed on the property was scant.
Animal cruelty charges against the company's directors, Ross Cottier and Murray Flett, general manager Craig Coote and regional farm manager Raymond Griffin were dropped yesterday.
Farmers were troubled by the way MilkPride treated the animals, Federated Farmers chairman Willy Leferink said.
"New Zealand has strong laws on animal welfare. We don't pay lip service to it and it is central to good farm management.
"That's why farmers know that good animal welfare is good for business, just as bad animal welfare is self-destructive."
The company will be sentenced on May 29.
At the start of the trial, crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch outlined how MilkPride had gone into a 50-50 sharemilking arrangement with a company owned by Crafar Farms, now in receivership.
The agreement related to Taharua Farm on the Napier-Taupo highway.
MilkPride had paid $9 million for the farm's stock and plant but in a little over a year the dairy herds were in such poor condition the stock value had dropped to $2m.
- Fairfax Media