Lack of understanding of farming practices is behind many complaints about farm animal welfare, industry bodies say.

More than 100 complaints were made to the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) about farm animal welfare in the Bay of Plenty between 2010 and 2014.

Sixty-seven of the complaints related to commercial farms and 26 pertained to lifestyle blocks. The remaining complaints categorised as "other" included operations such as saleyards and transport carriers.

One complaint resulted in an official warning and seven led to written warnings. There was one court order and one owner was prosecuted.


Other complaints resulted in verbal advice, education or referrals to other agencies. Up to two outcomes could be recorded for one complaint.

Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty president Rick Powdrell considered the number of complaints and portion of serious consequences a positive result.

"At times, people are concerned - and rightly so - but I think when you look at those numbers and see there was only one prosecution, I think that's positive," he said.

"Often what visually might appear to be a problem is not.

"In those cases often it's because the complainant is not in the industry and has a lack of understanding of what's actually going on - but I'm not going to downcry people who ring up us or SPCA.

"At the end of the day, no one wants to see animals suffering and, if situations can mostly be dealt with through advice and education, then that's positive."

Mr Powdrell did not think ignorance was a factor in many cases of neglect.

"On a lifestyle farm, you might get things such as flystricken sheep or eczema in sheep, but on a commercial farm, I'd say ignorance is uncommon because it's their business."


Nationwide, MPI received 2947 complaints about animal welfare between 2010 and 2014.

Commercial farms accounted for 1852 of the complaints, while lifestyle blocks accounted for 785 complaints - an over-representation of complaints, according to MPI.

"Last year between MPI and the SPCA we responded to almost 500 complaints involving lifestyle blocks," MPI compliance operations manager Gary Orr said.

Mr Orr also believed many complaints stemmed from a lack of knowledge in basic farming practices.

MPI has found about 27 per cent of complaints were unsubstantiated on inspection.

"With the increasing mobility of New Zealand's population in the pursuit of recreational activities, greater numbers of urban Kiwis are exploring the rural reaches of New Zealand.

"Unfortunately, a lot of these visitors apply their pet standards to production animals and they can be a little surprised to learn it is not illegal to allow sheep to give birth in the rain or a chicken farmer doesn't have to muster his free-range chickens into the shed during a storm."