A man has been banned from owning livestock for 20 years after failing to provide six calves with sufficient food.

The farmer said he accepted the ban but claimed authorities wanted to make an example of him and he was mostly a good farmer.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said octogenarian Lester Donald Rueben Johnstone, from Maungatapere, near Whangarei, was convicted of failing to meet the calves' physical and health needs.

"Two calves starved to death, one was put down and three were removed from the property to mitigate their suffering and improve their health," MPI said in a statement.


MPI said Mr Johnstone was fined $7500 and ordered to pay $2379 veterinary costs and $130 in Court costs at Whangarei District Court this month.

Mr Johnstone was charged after MPI staff visited his properties in 2014 to inspect skinny calves after a complaint.

The Ministry said its staff found several animal welfare issues on Mr Johnstone's properties and did what they could to mitigate the animals' suffering.

"The issues include a mob of skinny weaner calves in a paddock without grass or water, an emaciated young cow having difficulty standing, which had to be put down, and finding two calves that had died from starvation."

Mr Johnstone told NZME News Service he was advised not to fight the charges.

Mr Johnstone said two droughts in the region and a shortage of hay had made life difficult for farmers.

He said "everybody" had one or two sick animals.

"We all have an odd beast get crook and something happens," he said.


"We've got no hospital for sick cattle. But they've got a hospital for sick people."

He had mixed feelings about MPI inspectors, but he said he accepted MPI had a job to do.

He said he would not appeal and would pay the fine as ordered. He was now busy selling his animals. He expected his son to take over the farm.

"I want to retire. I want to go on a cruise, on a boat. I've worked hard all my life."

Mr Johnstone will be 102 years old before he is eligible to own, control or have any authority over production animals.

MPI said the court heard Johnstone had a history of similar offending and was disqualified from owning or managing stock for two years in 1997.