Cuttings kill 9 in-calf cows

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 05:00 14/05/2013
Simon Payne
ROBERT CHARLES/Fairfax NZ

TOXIC TREE: NZ Farmers Livestock stock agent Simon Payne holds a cutting of yew – a poisonous tree that has killed at least half of a Urenui farmer’s stock after it was recklessly dumped in a grazing paddock.

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A Urenui farmer fears he will lose a year's income after half his cattle died from eating poisonous yew tree cuttings.

When Darryn Taylor checked his stock on Saturday afternoon, five of his Belgian Blue beef cattle were dead in a paddock on Avenue Rd near Urenui village.

By yesterday morning four more had died and he had grave fears for the remaining 11 in the herd.

The herd of 20 pregnant cows were poisoned after eating yew cuttings which had been dumped by someone in a paddock where the stock were grazing.

Should any cows survive the poisoning, they were likely to abort their calves, he said.

Mr Taylor said he expected to lose his entire income for the year and he is taking legal advice.

Insurance would not cover the loss, he said.

"That's basically the income off the property."

The man he believed was responsible for the poisoning had permission from the land owner to dump waste in the paddock . . . "but obviously not to dump a noxious weed there.

"He could have just dumped it on the road side and waited for the stock to be moved."

NZ Farmers Livestock stock agent Simon Payne estimated each animal was worth $1100 and each calf up to $800.

If the entire herd died that would equate to a loss of roughly $40,000.

About two weeks ago Tikorangi farmer Tony Penwarden also lost five cows worth $1200 to yew poisoning.

The yew was dumped on a burn pile of a Waitara property the cows were grazing in by "an outside party", he said.

It was "probably urban people unaware of the implications of garden clippings," Mr Penwarden said.

"It reminded me of how toxic the stuff is."

The five cows were part of Mr Penwarden's future milking programme and he hoped to claim insurance on the loss.

Mr Payne said there was no cure for yew poisoning in heifers.

He said the public should be made aware of the dangers of dumping waste into paddocks without consulting the farmer first.

"They need to be doubly sure that what they're dumping is not going to harm or in extreme cases kill livestock," Mr Payne said.

"If in doubt, send it to the dump."

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