The owners of a farm that was the site of alleged animal abuse caught on hidden camera say they were shocked and deeply saddened by their worker's actions.

Footage released this week by farm animal advocacy group Farmwatch showed a Northland dairy farm worker repeatedly hitting cows with various weapons including a steel pipe.

The unnamed owners today released a statement saying a contract milker on their farm had been removed from duties requiring unsupervised contact with stock pending "the outcome of due process with regard to our contractual obligations".

The owners said they had been in contact with the Ministry for Primary Industries, DairyNZ and Fonterra and would be co-operating fully with the formal investigation.

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Animal rights group Safe is calling for CCTV cameras to be placed in all dairy sheds and slaughterhouses.

Safe said in a statement that an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act (1999) could be made, upping the maximum penalty for animal welfare offences to seven years, which would allow the placement of CCTV cameras.

DairyNZ's strategy leader Dr Jenny Jago said the wellbeing of animals must be "at the heart" of every dairy farm.

"It is not okay to treat any animal poorly - ever - and the vast majority of farmers care deeply about their animals," Jago said.

Jago said cruel and illegal practices are not condoned or accepted by the dairy sector as part of dairy farming.

"If a farmer treats their cows badly, they shouldn't be working in the dairy sector. It's as simple as that."

Farmwatch has been gathering evidence since May and passed fresh evidence to the ministry last Thursday, asking it to do another investigation.

Gary Orr, acting director, compliance services for the MPI confirmed the ministry had received the complaint and said an investigation was under way.

"MPI began an immediate investigation as soon as it received the footage last Thursday," Orr said.

"As this is an active investigation, we cannot comment further at this stage."

The footage showed the animals being hit on the head and legs with farm tools and weapons.

Farmwatch spokesman John Darroch told the Herald: "Watching the footage is heartbreaking, and you can see the animals scared and terrified to go into the milking shed. They visibly cower when the farmer is near."

Darroch said the case was not the worst, but it was "at the worst of the spectrum" that he has seen as a volunteer investigator.

"The video is shocking and deeply upsetting to watch," he said.