Quake cows won't be slaughtered - farmer

Kaikoura's three world-famous cows were never destined for the slaughterhouse, says the farmer who owns them.

The two Hereford beef cows and a four-month-old calf made headlines when they were stranded on a small, elevated patch of pasture following Monday's 7.5 magnitude earthquake, and Newshub's footage of them was broadcast around the world.

The animals were rescued from their precarious location on Tuesday morning after owner Derrick Millton and a group of five others dug out a track to get them down.

"Once they got off, they drank the water which was in the pond at the end of the block, they've got plenty of feed there, and they just needed to rest because like anyone in the earthquake they had a pretty horrific time."

Following news of the rescue, PETA Australia called for the cows to be put in a sanctuary and spared from slaughter.

But Mr Millton says that was never the plan for them.

"These are cows that have had probably three calves, so they'll have another seven or eight years and the last thing you'd ever want to do is send them to slaughterhouse - that's not what we do here. "

"Each cow is valuable to us because it's part of our farming business and so we don't ever wish anything like that on a cow and just because they've been through an earthquake doesn't mean to say we should do it either," he told Newshub.

And earthquake aside, the cattle have experienced some of the best conditions in years with plenty of feed and good weather, Mr Millton says.

"If PETA want to know, our cows couldn't be going through a better season than we could ever expect. This is one of the best seasons we've had for years."

Mr Millton says the calf in the video has been reunited with its mother, and has "a very good future".

The remaining calves will be with their mothers until at least March next year, when they'll be weaned.

As for the rest of the cows, it'll also be business as usual, with mating season upon them.

"So there's no change other than the memories they'll have of being sliced and pushed around and pushed over - they won't be affected by it, their production probably won't be affected at all."

Mr Millton says there was likely more sheep on the devastated block of land than first thought, with an estimated 200 sheep and 400 lambs. However, he says the "resilient" animals would be able to manage with the conditions and some would have saved themselves.

GNS engineering geologist Sally Dellow flew over the cows yesterday with Newshub, and she says they likely surfed the land as it crumbled.

"They were very lucky that the bit of pasture they're on, which was at the top of the hill, has survived its trip down the hill, because there's a lot of pasture that didn't survive," she says.