An Ashburton farmer who forced more than 150 cows into a milking shed by breaking their tails has been convicted on serious animal cruelty charges.
Dairy herd manager Kevin Craig Smith was convicted in the Ashburton District Court today after pleading guilty to the wilful ill-treatment of 154 dairy cows by breaking their tails and failing to provide treatment for their injuries.
He also admitted striking the animals with a plastic pipe.
Smith will be sentenced on October 14 and could face a maximum of five years in jail or a fine of up to $100,000.
The 38-year-old had been responsible for the day-to-day running of an Ashburton farm and the welfare of its two herds of dairy cows. Concerns about his treatment of the cows were raised in April after an artificial insemination technician working on the farm heard sounds of distress from a cow.
When she went to see what happened, she found Smith looking angry and a cow with blood running down her tail.
A veterinary inspection of the herd was arranged following the incident, where it was found that 154 cows had fractures in their tails that were clearly man-made.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) was alerted and began a compliance investigation.
During interviews with MPI investigators, Smith admitted wilfully breaking the tails of a number of cows and said he was ''sickened'' by what he had done.
MPI Canterbury-Westland compliance manager Peter Hyde said Smith's treatment of the animals was amongst the worst he had seen.
''The defendant didn't accidentally break the tails trying to force the cows into the milking shed, they were deliberately broken after he lost his temper.''
Hyde said those in charge of animals had an obligation to look after their welfare. Most in the industry took good stockmanship ''very seriously''.
''Cases like this are very much the exception to the rule. This sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable to MPI and the wider farming community. If animal welfare abuse of this nature is detected it will almost certainly result in prosecution,'' he said.
Hyde urged the farming industry and the public to report animal welfare concerns to MPI's hotline by calling 0800 00 83 33.
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