The first farmers to notify Mycoplasma bovis disease in 2017 blame the Government's poor response for their business woes.
Rodney Grant Nicol (61) appeared for sentencing in the Tokoroa District Court, having earlier pleaded guilty to seven charges under the Animal Welfare Act.
Nicol owns a 300-cow dairy farm and had 110 yearling cattle at the time he was investigated by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) from 10 August 2020.
“Most farmers do the right thing for all their animals, including ensuring that they have sufficient food and are being treated for common conditions such as parasites. If we find evidence of deliberate cruelty to animals, we will hold the person responsible to account,” says Brendon Mikkelsen, MPI regional manager animal welfare and NAIT compliance.
During the first visit, an MPI animal welfare inspector found seven dead yearlings on his paddocks, which Nicol told the inspector he believed had died from parasites.
Nicol was then instructed to drench all his yearlings for parasites within nine working days.
Further complaints about the treatment of the yearlings were received by MPI.
A subsequent visit by an animal welfare inspector on 22 August 2020 found 32 of the yearlings had not been drenched within the agreed time. Many of the animals were also suffering from chronic undernutrition.
A veterinarian recommended two other yearlings be euthanised to end their suffering – including one that was so weak it was stuck in a fence. A tenth animal was found dead near these yearlings. Nicol said an eleventh yearling that had been drenched and given a vitamin B12 shot died after being caught in a rainstorm.
“The vet also noted that he had not come across young stock in such a state of malnourishment during his career, as they were less than half the weight they should have been. These animals would have suffered greatly from the neglect Mr Nicol showed them,” says Mikkelsen.
During the investigation, Nicol told an MPI animal welfare inspector that he prioritised his milking herd over ensuring the wellbeing of the yearlings was being met.
Nicol has previously appeared before the courts on an animal welfare charge, which he pleaded guilty to, involving failure to ensure reasonable treatment of a dairy cow with a broken leg.