Cow screamed during beating, trial told

A farm worker said she heard a cow scream during a beating by farm manager Carl Ryan McNaught who has gone on trial on animal ill-treatment charges.

The Ministry of Primary Industries is alleging that 29-year-old McNaught punched, kicked, and broke the tails of cows as well as hitting them with a steel bar.

The woman also gave evidence that he deliberately ran down a calf on his quad bike, breaking its leg.

He denies four charges in the Christchurch District Court, alleging that he ill-treated animals on the farm near Darfield in 2015 and failed to treat the injured animals.

The trial before Judge David Saunders is expected to take three days. Prosecutor Grant Fletcher said the Ministry would call evidence from nine witnesses including veterinarians, workers on the farm, and animal welfare inspectors.

The veterinarians told of examining the tails of about 680 cows on the farm in late 2015. One found that 154 had broken tails and another found the total was 185. Both said some of the injuries and had occurred within one or two weeks. Other breaks were “chronic” and had been done at least six weeks before.

Otherwise, there was “nothing untowards” about the general health of the stock, one of the veterinarians said.

They explained that cows needed tails to swat away nuisance flies, to protect the genital area, and possibly for balance. Tail-breaking was like dislocating a finger and required about as much force. One liked it to breaking a broom handle.

Farm worker Kelly d’Esposito told of resigning after several weeks working on the farm because of the animal cruelty she saw. She said McNaught was “a psychotic” and she had argued with him, threatened to report him, record him, and even kill him. She reported the matter to the MPI.

She said she had seen him punch cows on the rump, kick them, and bash one with a steel bar. One cow screamed as he hit it with the bar about three times before she walked out. She saw him twisting the cows tails and photographed one break. She saw cows limping and lame after he had struck them.

She told of him running over a calf with a quad bike when a herd of calves scattered as they were being moved. The calf’s leg was broken at the knee joint but he made it walk with the others back to its paddock. It had to be destroyed.

Defence counsel Gerard Thwaites questioned the veterinarians about the ways in which cows could get broken tails, and was told they could be caught in gates or fences, stepped on by other cows, or sat on. One or two percent of cows in a herd might be expected to have broken tails, but one vet said the level in injuries in this herd made him suspect they had been “inflicted purposefully”.

Mr Thwaites asked about dairy farmers holding tails to guide cows, and they agreed this was done, but it had to be done gently.

Mr Thwaites referred in his questions to some of the injuries as being historical and dating to before McNaught had been at the farm.

The trial is continuing.


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