A young woman's attempt to care for a few cows snowballed, ending in almost 190 cows being malnourished and in poor condition after the numbers got out of hand and she did not have enough funds or manpower to care for and feed them all.
In desperation and with her rescued cows facing slaughter or being euthanised, Canterbury woman Jasmine Hubber, who runs Til the Cows Came Home, called in the help of Huha (Helping You Help Animals).
It has spent the past five weeks and $28,000 on veterinary bills and providing feed for the various breeds of cows located in eight different paddocks around Christchurch.
Huha is now facing the ambitious task of re-homing all of them as pets.
Hubber told the Herald the situation worsened after lockdown when a grazier who had been contracted to care for 60 cows failed to do so.
While they were there one of the bulls also being grazed at a nearby paddock got into paddock and impregnated 20 cows which all had calves.
The Ministry for Primary Industries insisted the underweight cows be moved immediately and it is the new neighbour that alerted MPI for a second time as there wasn't enough grass for them in the paddock, she said.
"The property they were on when we moved them from the grazier was 16ha
and it had a lot of grass when they first arrived, but it just couldn't sustain them for more than two months," she said.
"It's kind of been a build up over the six months and everything got too much."
Hubber said it had been a big learning process and she had learnt that she couldn't take in every cow, especially as she had been trying to do the majority of it on her own.
Huha co-founder Carolyn Press-McKenzie said she was heartbroken when she first saw the cows in the paddock five weeks ago.
Press-McKenzie said Til the Cows Came Home had struggled with the care of the animals to the point that it was impacting the cows' health.
"The first thing affecting me was how serious it was ... my heart broke when I saw the cows. They looked empty and they were bellowing and there was no food. I was devastated about what they had been through to get into that condition and I knew that it had been a long slow journey to get that hungry."
Til the Cows Came Home had been running for two years and had taken in small herds of cows and bobby calves, but had failed to re-home the animals to make room for more.
"Somewhere along the line she got some bum advice and neglected to castrate the little boy calves and then what has happened is there's been an awful lot of breeding and overcrowding and there's been situations where there's been grass and not the capacity to buy the food and feed required."
Some of the young heifers who were pregnant were too young to carry the pregnancy to term so some of those had to be aborted, while another could not be helped and had to be euthanised. Others were extremely emaciated but were recovering after being fed with the help of local farmers.
Under Huha's instruction, local vet clinics were also called on to de horn, vaccinate, drench and pregnancy test the female cows and neuter the males.
The cows range from bottle feeders to 8 or 9 years old and were a mix of Friesian, Jerseys, Galloways, Angus and Hereford.
But five weeks on most of the cows were either in good health - a vast change from when she first saw them and thought about a third would not survive - or on the road to recovery.
Press-McKenzie's believed only five cows plus the unborn calves had been euthanised due to the hard work of MPI, the local farmers and vets and Huha.
She said looking after that many cows was a huge undertaking for anyone both physically and financially - let alone a 20-year-old.
Huha had this week started finding homes for pet cows after they had all tested free from M. bovis and were looking at locations around the country.
So far 35 cows had been re-homed and they were in the process of checking out homes for another 50.
Til the Cows Come Home still hoped to keep 20 cows on their existing piece of land and did not plan to take on any new cows until it acquired more land next year.
Huha was vetting the would-be owners to sure they are in a position to provide food and veterinary care for the large, but friendly pets.
An MPI spokesperson said it had began an investigation after being called to a Springfield property on September 7, 2020, following a call from a member of the public concerned about the condition of cattle.
"As a result of a visit by our Animal Welfare Inspectors, we have commenced an investigation regarding the animals on this property and several other properties throughout Canterbury."
MPI declined to provide further information due to the investigation being ongoing.