A man who cruelly mistreated bobby calves will now serve jail time after originally being sentenced to home detention.

Noel Erickson, 38, was secretly filmed kicking, hitting and throwing bobby calves while working as a casual slaughterman at pet food business Down Cow in Waikato.

He was sentenced to 10 months' home detention and 200 hours' community work in July this year.

The sentence was appealed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), which said it was inadequate.

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The home detention sentence was quashed in the High Court at Hamilton yesterday, and Erickson will now serve two years in prison.

Erickson had completed three months of his 10-month home detention sentence.

Judge Patricia Courtney said the original decision took into account Erickson's lack of training and supervision, but that his culpability was not "markedly" less because of this.

"It was simply a cruel disregard for the animals' welfare," said Judge Courtney.

"It is undeniable that Mr Erickson's offending was callous and brutal, and caused suffering to very young and vulnerable animals."

The abuse was brought to light after Farmwatch secretly filmed Erickson in a hidden camera sting.

MPI launched a probe last September following release of the footage.

MPI compliance operations manager Gary Orr welcomed the decision.

"Erickson's offending involved a significant number of calves who were treated with extreme cruelty," he said.

"There was clear evidence of abuse including of Erickson throwing and dropping calves on to the ground, kicking and hitting them, and dragging one under a gate.

"MPI introduced new regulations governing the welfare and management of bobby calves in August this year.

"Since then, we have been actively reinforcing the new regulations with warning letters and infringement notices."