A Riversdale farm worker who broke the tails of 10 cows was fined $4000 and told if it happened again, he would run the risk of being disqualified from farming.

Kenneth Cooper-Campbell (25) appeared before Judge Russell Collins in the Invercargill District Court yesterday for ill-treating about 90 heifers by manipulating their tails at Centre Bush between August 1 and September 1, 2018.

The initial charge laid by the Ministry of Primary Industries, stated Cooper-Campbell had injured 92 tails, however, in sentencing, Judge Collins said there was only enough evidence to sentence him on the injuries of 10 cows beyond reasonable doubt.

"The offending here, though, at 10, is still significant. It's not one-off offending on a bad day.

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"In all likelihood it has been the reaction of frustration or bad temper or anger on your part."

The ill treatment of the animals also had a wider implication, he said.

"[These charges] have an additional harm, they can affect the national impression in terms of animal welfare in the farming sector."

Judge Collins said Cooper-Campbell had a history of poor decision-making but he said that could possibly have been "the poor judgement of a young man".

"The certainty in your life is your employment. You go on from today and become an excellent stock man and become an asset to any farm operation you are a part of.

"There's plenty of New Zealanders who have made mistakes in their past and moved on from that."

Cooper-Campbell was at present employed on a dairy farm and that affected the sentencing Judge Collins could impose.

He was sentenced to $4000 and ordered to pay vet costs of $784.05.

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"You are clearly on notice from the ministry. If you were to come back on any animal welfare offending, you would almost certainly be disqualified."