A Waikato farm owner has been fined after leaving a herd of cows to starve on his property.
It wasn't until the 157 one-year-old dairy replacement heifers were moved from Shane Kingsley Torstonson's farm at Kaihere, Morrinsville, that the alarm was raised.
Some were left for dead while seven simply disappeared in a case of neglect which has led to Ministry for Primary Industries issuing a warning for farmers about their responsibilities.
The 51-year-old appeared in the Morrinsville District Court this week and was convicted and fined $2,700 after admitting he failed to ensure the physical and health needs of the cows in his care.
Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman, Brendon Mikkelsen, said Torstonson had the cows grazing at his 250ha farm from July 2015.
When the animals were transferred to a second grazier 10 months later, that grazier became immediately concerned about the condition of the animals.
A vet who was asked to assess the animals found signs that were consistent with being underfed for a prolonged period of time.
Mikkelsen said graziers were responsible for the animals in their care and must ensure they provide them with proper and enough food.
"A shortage of feed is no excuse. In this case seven animals were confirmed as having died and the whereabouts of a further six animals can't be explained.
"This case serves as a timely reminder for farmers who send their animals off to a grazier to ensure those animals' physical, health and daily feed requirements are being met. Irrespective of whether a grazing contract exists, it is prudent to inspect your animals to ensure their welfare needs are being met.
"Our thorough investigation into this incident resulted in Torstonson being convicted and fined under section 12 (a) of the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act places legal responsibility for the welfare of animals on both the owner and the people in charge of animals.
"The outcome of this case sends a very clear message to anyone involved in grazing animals that they are ultimately responsible for the animals in their care and, quite simply, this sort of failure will not be tolerated."
Torstonson was also ordered to pay court costs of $130.