New Zealand's top dairy farmer who was stripped of his award for "unacceptable" social media comments referencing animal abuse is fighting for the title to be reinstated.
New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Trust tonight announced it had decided to remove the title of 2020 Share Farmer of the Year from Nick and Rosemarie Bertram.
It was revealed that Nick Bertram posted a series of tweets including his suggested methods for introducing the animals to milking in 2017.
"Put a pipe up there c... an blow them up with air. Wrks a treat they freeze to the spot and let milk down. I never tie up or use oxytocin [sic]" one tweet read.
Bertram has since said he did not do that and was only "stirring the pot".
"This is definitely not a practice which we do and does not reflect the level of respect that I have for my animals. However, I now understand this is a highly inappropriate thing to post on social media."
Though Bertram says he's "very embarrassed" and "apologetic" his comments had resurfaced, he was in "complete shock" to lose the title.
"We have worked really hard and spent many hours working on our presentation," he said.
The Tararua farmer said he and his wife had become subjects of "cancel culture" and New Zealand had a problem with tall poppy syndrome.
"Because I am the only person to have held two National titles, people have felt the need to bring me down.
"Since this has all occurred, my wife and I have also been subject to a massive amount of cyber bullying and threats."
Bertram said he would be stepping down from his national role in Federated Farmers as vice chairman in the Share Milkers section.
An independent review is being launched by the trust to investigate its procedures, processes and entry criteria.
Bertram has apologised and deleted the comments, an NZDIA spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the trust acknowledged some people within the industry were aware of those comments before the awards were announced last Saturday.
"Animal welfare is of paramount importance to the industry and the trust is committed to offering a 2021 awards programme that will showcase best practice and allow entrants to benchmark and improve their own farming practices.
"It is also committed to farmer welfare and will ensure Mr and Mrs Bertram are supported during this difficult time."
The Tararua farmers were named Share Farmers of the Year at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) last Saturday.
Safe chief executive Debra Ashton told Stuff Bertram set the bar very low for industry excellence.
"Bertram's attitude towards animals is disrespectful, and the proof is in his tweets," she said. "The lack of scrutiny calls into question the merit of title."
The Bertram couple, aged 33 and 27 respectively, are 50/50 sharemilkers on a 150ha, 440-cow Woodville property.