Successful animal welfare operation at high country sheep station

9 September 2002

A high country sheep station in central Otago has been all but cleared of its stock of 3000 sheep after MAF's Special Investigation Group carried out a week-long animal welfare investigation and recovery operation.

Earl Culham, MAF senior adviser, said MAF was called on to the property in response to a complaint received on the national animal welfare hotline (0800 327 027) about the physical condition of the sheep.

"From the time we entered the property (near Lake Benmore) last Monday it was apparent these animals had been surviving on next to no feed and the body condition of almost all animals put their welfare at risk."

"As of today we believe the work that we have co-ordinated here has brought the situation back into a manageable state. Over the weekend about half of the sheep had been sold and transported to properties where they will be able to recover their health. Almost 400 sheep were too far gone to recover and had to be humanely euthanased.

"Given the size of the property - some 4600 hectares - we were fortunate that most of the sheep had been mustered for shearing. Our first actions were to get feed out to the sheep and to bring any remaining sheep down from the high country.

"This operation has continued over several days from daylight until well after dark. Its success reflects the combined efforts of Federated Farmers representatives Peter Patterson and Stewart Ross, superb stockmen, a farm consultant and Oamaru veterinary services.

Mr Culham said an order issued under the Animal Welfare Act to take actions to mitigate pain and suffering was still active, and would be reviewed over the next week.

"The tragedy is that situations like this should not occur. Farmers should also know that we will act to enforce the law whenever animal welfare is at risk, and will pursue prosecutions where criminal liability can be established".


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