A sharemilker has been banned from owning animals for four years after officials discovered dairy cows under his care on a Northland farm had burst udders from untreated mastitis, and severely lame cows and a calf.
There were also 65 cows with broken tails.
A beardie-cross dog belonging to 23-year-old Jaedan Joseph Wells was also suffering from broken femurs and a broken hip.
The cruel discovery was made when a Ministry of Primary Industries animal welfare inspector and a vet went to the dairy farm near Waipū in December 2017 after receiving a complaint of animal mistreatment.
Wells was sentenced to five months' home detention when he appeared before Judge John McDonald in the Whangārei District Court on Wednesday.
Wells admitted three charges of ill treatment of cows, one of ill treatment of a dog, failing to treat an animal to alleviate pain or distress and failing to ensure physical handling in a manner that minimised pain or distress.
The court heard Wells was the contract milker and sharemilker on the farm between May 2017 and December 2017 and was in charge and part owner of the 230 dairy cows.
Of the 65 cows with broken tails, 12 of them had more than one fracture in their tail, 12 were classed as acute with the break up to 2 months old, 12 were mid-range and between 2 and 3 months old and 41 of the fractures were chronic and over 3 months old.
Twenty-one were first-year heifers and all breaks were either in the middle of the tail or within the top third of the tail.
The vet's opinion was the tails were broken through great physical force from a person and normal handling of cattle should not result in such injuries.
"Where tails are broken by twisting or bending it generally results in the breaking of the connections between the vertebrae. An injury of this nature is akin to a human dislocating their finger. Veterinary advice should always be sought for cows with a broken tail," the ministry said.
One of the cows was identified as suffering from a traumatic impact to the upper tail area, which was broken and completely displaced the tail at the tail head. The tail was floppy, deep pain was present and the cow could only move the tail a small amount.
Wells admitted breaking the tail of this cow three months prior to the MPI inspection while trying to get her up after she went down on the milking platform. Wells said he never sought treatment and admitted he knew the cow was suffering.
X-rays of a dog belonging to Wells showed multiple fractures, some months old, in various stages of healing. The dog had to be euthanised as did two cows which had not been treated for mastitis and resulted in their hind quarters bursting. Two lame cows and a calf with a swollen front leg that could not weight bear also had to be put down to end their suffering.
"There was a number of avenues you could have pursued if it was all getting too much for you," Judge McDonald said.
"With 28 per cent of the herd with broken tails this wasn't a one-off event."
MPI spokesman Peter Hyde said claims of offending under the Animal Welfare Act would always be investigated and the appropriate action taken.
DairyNZ said not only had the farmer treated the animals in an appalling way, he had let down other farmers and New Zealanders.
Animal care team manager for Dairy NZ Helen Thoday said the wellbeing of animals is at the heart of New Zealand dairy farms and the vast majority of farmers cared deeply about their animals.
Wells was also ordered to make reparation of $7500 to the farm owners and $886 to MPI for vet expenses.