The dairy downturn has been partly blamed for the pressure that led to a North Otago stockman who has admitted breaking the tails of 48 dairy cows.
The 37-year-old farm employee and father of four young children, Jeffrey Antony Wright, was today put on community detention for four months and ordered to do 100 hours of community work, at his sentencing in the Christchurch District Court.
The Ministry of Primary Industries conceded that he was “not seen as a bad farmer or a cruel man” but it prosecuted him as part of its efforts to stamp out the dairy farming practice of tail-breaking.
MPI prosecutor Grant Fletcher said after the sentencing: “Tail-breaking is a practice that has no place within New Zealand’s dairy farming industry. It is cruel and completely unnecessary. If tail-breaking is brought to our attention, we will always investigate and if appropriate place the matter before the court.”
Wright will serve his community detention at a house at Papakaio, north of Oamaru, about 25km from the farm where he works, and where the offending occurred in 2014 and 2015.
Several months ago, Wright admitted a charge of recklessly ill-treating 40 dairy cows, and wilfully illtreating 8 cows. His sentencing had been delayed to check an address for an electronically monitored sentence.
Judge Tom Gilbert said tail-breaking occurred out of anger or to make an animal move. It was considered by animal health experts to be cruel and unnecessary. Significant force was required and the pain inflicted was equivalent to having fingers broken. It interfered with a cow’s mating, toiletting and swatting of flies.
Wright was on a farm with 1065 cows, which was generally seen to be a well managed property. The MPI investigated when a member of the public reported concerns. Veterinarians found cows with broken tails, including eight that had been broken in the previous two weeks.
Wright co-operated with the investigation, and admitted the offending. He said he had broken the tails because of his inability to control his frustration.
Judge Gilbert said Wright was polite and respectful at his pre-sentence interview and was seen as a low likelihood of reoffending.
“You were clearly a man under considerable stress because of the downturn in the dairy industry, as well as the work burdens that come with being a dairy farmer, and the pressures from being a father of four young kids,” said the judge.
He imposed the sentence and ordered Wright to pay $2817 reparations to the MPI.
He said he was satisfied that the chances of Wright reoffending were remote, but warned that if it did happen he would likely be imprisoned and disqualified from having control of animals.