The farming property of a well-known Hawke's Bay man is being investigated by the SPCA following a complaint stock had been neglected and left to die on the 200ha rural station.
Napier SPCA manager Bruce Wills confirmed staff had visited a property on Crownthorpe Rd, northwest of Hastings on Monday and Tuesday. They found 28 sheep had died and many others had been caught up in blackberry.
"We do not have definitive cause of death for the sheep but we are assuming that at least some of them were as a direct result of being caught in the blackberry for long periods.
"The majority of the sheep were in reasonable condition. The issues were not a lack of food but that unshorn sheep were allowed to graze in paddocks thick with blackberry."
The "Longdale" property was owned by Andrew Ormond who is also the deputy master of the Hawke's Bay Hunt Club.
Mr Wills said Mr Ormond had taken measures to remove sheep from the "high-risk paddocks" this week, which had resolved the immediate welfare issues of the animals.
"It is always difficult to rank animal welfare cases, but this matter is serious and it is clear the farmer has been remiss in both putting unshorn lambs in a high-risk paddock, and not checking on them regularly.
"Whether this translates into criminal negligence is another matter; we will be completing our investigation before any decision is made regarding a prosecution."
Mr Wills said he was waiting on vet reports from some of the sheep which were removed from the property and hoped to talk further with Mr Ormond.
"Following this a file will be completed and submitted to our superiors for review. This process may take several weeks or even months to complete."
Mr Ormond sought legal advice and said he could not comment until he had been interviewed by the SPCA and the investigation was completed.
His former wife, Nic, who still lived at the Longdale property, said the couple separated about July last year when Mr Ormond moved to live on another property in the district.
She said she had also received complaints from people, including cyclists riding past the property, about the welfare of the animals.
"The farm is run by a trust with Andrew and another family member.
"It's got nothing to do with me," she said.
At least two people contacted Hawke's Bay Today to complain about the state of animals on the property.