Dairy farmer who broke cows' tails fined $40,000

MPI launched an investigation in June 2018.
MPI launched an investigation in June 2018. Photo credit: File / Getty

A Taranaki dairy farmer has been fined $40,000 and put under two years' intensive supervision for treating more than 100 cows in a "cruel and unnecessary' way.

Lane Rodney Wiggins appeared in the Hawera District Court on Tuesday where he pleaded guilty to two charges under the Animal Welfare Act.

He was fined $35,000 for breaking the tails of 136 cows and $5000 for docking the tails of 26 cows.

The court also ordered that Wiggins be placed under intensive supervision for two years, meaning he will have an immediate inspection of his herd carried out by someone chosen by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). He will then have to have follow-up inspections every six months, at his own cost. 

MPI launched an investigation into Wiggins' behaviour in June 2018, with two inspectors and a veterinarian inspecting the tails of 195 cows in his herd.

They found 136 of these cows had broken tails, with 111 of these suffering multiple breaks - between two and six per tail.

MPI animal welfare regional manager Joanna Tuckwell said 130 of the 136 cows' tails were assessed as having breaks in the mid or high sections of their tails. Because this section is a thicker part of the tail it would have required considerable force to cause a break, Tuckwell said.

Wiggins said the injuries had occurred as he was under time pressure and had bent the tails while pushing the cows in the milking shed.

Tuckwell said this was no excuse.

"Even though farmers will sometimes use a cow's tail to steer the animal where it needs to go, best practice is not to lift or twist tails. It takes excessive force to break a cow's tail," she said.

"The cows that Mr Wiggins deliberately ill-treated would have been in considerable pain.

"This action was simply cruel and unnecessary."

Tuckwell said MPI took its job seriously and would not hesitate to prosecute when it had "clear evidence of offending of this nature".