Kaikoura's three "quake cows", which made international headlines, were never going to be sent to the slaughterhouse according to their owner.

The two beef cattle and a 4-month-old calf survived Monday's earthquake stranded on a small island of land, huddling together for safety as collapsed earth surrounded them.

The cows were rescued from the chaos on Tuesday morning when the farmer who owns them, Derrick Millton, and five others dug out a track to get them down.

"Once they got off, they drank the water in the pond at the end of the block, they've got plenty of feed there, and they just needed to rest because like anyone in the earthquake they had a pretty horrific time," Millton told Newshub.


Following news of the rescue, animal rights group Peta called for the cows to be allowed to retire and live out their days in a sanctuary.

Millton assured Newshub it was never the plan to send them to their deaths.

"These are cows that have had probably three calves, so they'll have another seven or eight years and the last thing you'd ever want to do is send them to slaughterhouse - that's not what we do here.

"Each cow is valuable to us because it's part of our farming business. We don't ever wish anything like that on a cow and just because they've been through an earthquake doesn't mean to say we should do it either," he told Newshub.

BREAKING NEWS: The cows stranded on this grass island by the NZ Earthquake have been rescued. Here's how they did...

Posted by Dr Chris Brown on Monday, 14 November 2016

The calf in the video has since been reunited with its mother and, as mating season draws nearer, it is back to business for the rest of the cows.

"So there's no change other than the memories they'll have of being sliced and pushed around and pushed over - they won't be affected by it, their production probably won't be affected at all," Millton told Newshub.

It is unknown at this stage how many cows and other livestock in the region have been killed in the earthquakes. Some calves, from the stranded cows' family, were believed to be dead. Under the national Civil Defence plan, MPI is responsible for animal welfare.

Millton said to Newshub that the cows have experienced one of the best seasons in years with plenty of feed and good weather.