Welfare team kills starving dairy cows and calves

An investigation team has put down 150 starving cows and 30 calves out of a neglected 900-cow dairy herd in Rotomanu on the West Coast.

More distressed cows have been sent to the meatworks and attempts are being made to save the rest during the animal welfare emergency at a leasehold property near Lake Brunner.

The dairy farmer, yet to be identified by authorities, has been told milk will no longer be accepted by dairy co-operative Westland Milk Products.

Details of how the farmer allowed the herd to deteriorate so badly, or whether the farm had been overstocked during a mild and wet winter, have yet to emerge.

A Primary Industries Ministry investigation will last for days because of the starving herd's condition. The ministry has yet to advise if the herd owner will be prosecuted for animal welfare breaches.

Canterbury-Westland compliance manager Peter Hyde said a ministry investigator had found several cows dead on the leasehold farm last week and the rest of the herd in various stages of starvation.

The investigator had sought immediate help from veterinarians and experts to assess the herd.

"It was established that a large number of cows were in such an emaciated state that they were unlikely to survive the coming days," Hyde said. "The problem was compounded by most of the cows either being in calf or having recently calved."

The 150 cows and 30 calves were killed on the property by investigators under the supervision of a veterinarian, and 60 cows able to be transported were sent to the local freezing works.

Ministry investigators and dairy farm consultants are working with the property owner to ensure the welfare of the remaining 700 cows.

Westland said it had sent a strong signal that animal neglect would not be tolerated by refusing milk from the farm until cow welfare improved.

Westland chairman Matt O'Regan said its first priority was to support the remaining animals on the farm.

The Press