The China Jin Hui Mining Corporation - recently renamed Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings - says it has agreed to buy the Crafar family farms as well as other assets including farmland, cattle, and milkpowder production plant.

The deal will be paid for in cash and through the issue of convertible bonds, the company said in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The Crafar family was the nation's biggest family-owned group of dairy farms. It was placed in receivership on October 5 last year.

Shortly before the company was placed in receivership government inspectors were ordered to make urgent checks on the welfare of livestock at its farms.

Ministry of Agriculture inspectors visited all 22 Crafar farms after scores of calves died through neglect.

However, receiver Michael Stiassny of KordaMentha has said not all the animal welfare issues were the fault of the Crafar family as some animals were owned by sharemilkers.

In December the company appeared in the Hamilton District Court where a lawyer acting for the receivers pleaded guilty to four charges of unlawfully discharging effluent to land and breach of an abatement notice.

At the time Allan Crafar said that he, his wife Elizabeth, and his brother Frank were being unfairly targeted over issues such as dirty dairying and animal welfare.

The effluent charges arose from a series of incidents between November 2007 and February 2008 on the company's property at Kuratau, southwest of Lake Taupo.

The Crafar family built a dairying empire with 20,000 milking cows, 10,000 other stock, 200 staff and around $200 million of debt with Westpac, Rabobank and PGG Wrightson Finance.

Westpac had slowed rural lending growth in the wake of its exposure to Crafar Farms' receivership, banking sources told Interest.co.nz earlier this year.

- NZPA / NZ HERALD