Warning: This article contains descriptions that may disturb some readers.
A Taranaki contract milker has been fined close to $4,000 for amputating the teats of dairy cows by placing rubber rings on them and cutting them off with scissors.
Forty-seven-year-old Claudio Da Costa was convicted and fined $3,750 when he appeared in the New Plymouth District Court today.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) began an investigation after receiving a complaint to its Animal Welfare hotline in November last year when Da Costa was working as a contract milker at a property in Okato in rural Taranaki.
MPI's Wellington and Taranaki District compliance manager, Mike Green, says the farm's owners discovered 12 of their dairy cows had missing teats and consulted a vet to find out what had happened to them.
He says Da Costa admitted he had removed the teats by placing a rubber ring on them and cutting them off two days later with a pair of scissors.
He failed to use any form of pain relief.
"In explanation for his actions, Da Costa said the cows had bad lacerations to their teats and he considered it the quickest and cheapest way to fix the problem," says Mr Green.
"[Da Costa] said the lacerations were already causing the cows pain and he didn't believe his actions caused them any more pain."
Mr Green says expert veterinary opinion stated that sensory innervation of the teat is dense and therefore very sensitive to trauma and other painful stimuli.
Any teat surgery therefore requires analgesia and should only be undertaken by a veterinarian.
It was highly unlikely that all 12 cows would have required treatment by teat amputation, says MPI in a statement.
"Teat occlusion using the method employed by Da Costa is a draconian practice with no place in modern dairy farming."