A Waihi farmer has been banned from owning, exercising control over and being in charge of more than 100 sheep after being convicted and fined for failing to treat around 30 ill sheep on her farm.
Seventy-seven-year-old Elaine Evelyn Coxhead was fined $2,500 for the animal welfare offence and a further $500 for failing to comply with a requirement given by an animal welfare inspector when she appeared in the Waihi District Court this week.
The court action followed a complaint to the Ministry for Primary Industries in September 2016 that related to issues with a mob of sheep the farmer managed.
Following the complaint, animal welfare inspectors visited the farm and found at least 15 dead sheep in various states of decomposition. It is believed the animals had been there from between a few days to 6 months.
The majority of the live sheep had daggy rear-ends and faecal samples that were normally found in sheep heavily infested with worms.
Coxhead was advised she was required to get the sheep assessed by a vet and was given 7 days to comply. When animal welfare inspectors re-visited the property a few weeks later, they found no action had been taken by the farmer and a mob of around 30 sheep were in the same condition as the initial visit. They also discovered a freshly dead sheep.
Faecal samples were taken from the freshly dead sheep and from 3 of the live sheep. Tests revealed that the dead sheep and one of the live sheep were infested with worms.
Ministry for Primary Industries Manager of Compliance for the Northern Region, Brendon Mikkelsen, says an egg count of 500 is deemed to be significant, meaning the animal would require treatment. The dead sheep that was tested had an egg count of 25,500.
Mr Mikkelsen says the property was again visited and a further 31 dead sheep were found. A ewe and lamb were also euthanised at the recommendation of the visiting vet.
"This farmer had previously come to our attention for failing to treat her sheep against fly-strike. She was reminded of her responsibilities to ensure that the physical health and behavioural needs of her sheep were met. The latest incidents are therefore very disappointing.
"People who care for farm animals have a legal responsibility to ensure their animals don't suffer.
"The animals in this case clearly suffered, some for long periods of time.
"Neglecting animals and failing to treat them can also have serious consequences for the wider agricultural industry, and, if widespread, would make New Zealand's animal products far less desirable internationally."
Mr Mikkelsen says he hopes this conviction and sentencing serves as a deterrent and reminds farmers to ensure all animals in their care receive appropriate treatment that alleviates any unreasonable or unnecessary pain and distress.