Global Agriculture

Canterbury farmer sentenced for hundreds of calf deaths

26 April 2023, NZ: A Canterbury farmer found responsible for the death of 610 calves she was raising has been banned from owning or being in charge of calves and cattle and placed on home detention for 7 months.

Rakaia calf-rearer Lisa-Jane Claire Miller (54) was sentenced in the Ashburton District Court on 5 charges under the Animal Welfare Act, following a successful prosecution by Ministry for Primary Industries. Along with home detention, she was disqualified under the Animal Welfare Act from owning or being responsible for calves or cattle for 5 years. The court also ordered Ms Miller to pay costs of $3,975.48.

Between August 2020 and October 2020, Lisa-Jane Miller bought 687 calves to rear at her farm. A later MPI investigation found the animals started to die within 3 weeks of arriving at her farm and by the middle of September between 15 and 30 calves were dying daily, says MPI team leader investigations south, Mark Sanders.

“Welfare problems with the calves began early with a scours outbreak and while Ms Miller did initially seek help, including gaining antibiotics from a veterinarian, the problems multiplied and hundreds of calves that she was in charge of eventually died.

“Ms Miller did not take the necessary action to prevent or address the issues, including declining an offer from a vet to look into the cause of the outbreak.”

In December, MPI received a complaint from a member of the public and sent inspectors and a vet to visit the farm.

“They found more than 100 dead calves scattered around the farm that had died from starvation, another 100 calves in extremely poor condition because of a lack of food, with 4 having to be euthanised to end their suffering, along with a lack of good grass for grazing and a lack of water for the animals,” says Mark Sanders.

“The priority was to ensure the animals were looked after, so the inspector issued a Notice of Direction requiring all remaining calves to be examined by vet. An animal health management plan was also produced for Ms Miller and a search warrant for the property was obtained and carried out.

“If Ms Miller had not neglected these calves and had them examined by a veterinarian when advised to in those early stages – the situation might have been very different. As an experienced calf-rearer, she knew what her responsibility was to these young animals but failed them,” Mark Sanders says.

MPI strongly encourages any member of the public who is aware of animal ill-treatment or cruelty to report it to the MPI animal welfare complaints freephone 0800 008 333.

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