Tokoroa farmer fined $17,500 for neglecting cattle

Eleven animals died from Nicol's neglect.
Eleven animals died from Nicol's neglect. Photo credit: File / Getty Images

A Tokoroa dairy farmer has been fined $17,500 after his neglect of yearling cattle led to the deaths of 11 animals.

Rodney Grant Nicol, 61, owns a 300-cow dairy farm and had 110 yearling cattle at the time he was investigated by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in August 2020.

He was sentenced in the Tokoroa District Court after earlier pleading guilty to seven charges under the Animal Welfare Act.

Brendon Mikkelsen, MPI's regional manager of animal welfare and NAIT compliance, said seven dead yearlings were found on his paddocks when an animal welfare inspector first visited Nicol's property. Nicol, who told the inspector he believed they had died from parasites, was instructed to drench all his yearlings for parasites within nine working days.

However, MPI then received further complaints about Nicol's treatment of the animals. A subsequent visit to his farm revealed 32 of his yearlings had not been drenched within the agreed time and "many of the animals were also suffering from chronic undernutrition".

Mikkelsen said a veterinarian recommended a further two yearlings be euthanised to end their suffering - "including one that was so weak it was stuck in a fence" - and a tenth yearling was found dead near these animals. Nicol also told the inspector an eleventh yearling that had been drenched and given a B12 shot died after being caught in a heavy rainstorm.

"The vet also noted that he had not come across young stock in such a state of malnourishment during his career, as they were less than half the weight they should have been," Mikkelseon said

"These animals would have suffered greatly from the neglect Mr Nicol showed them."

Nicol told an MPI inspector during the investigation that he prioritised his milking herd over the wellbeing of his yearlings, Mikkelsen said.

"Most farmers do the right thing for all of their animals, including ensuring that they have sufficient food and are being treated for common conditions such as parasites. If we find evidence of deliberate cruelty to animals, we will hold the person responsible to account."

MPI said it was not the first time Nicol had appeared before the court on an animal welfare charge. In a previous case, he had pleaded guilty to failing to ensure reasonable treatment to a dairy cow with a broken leg.

As well as the fine, Nicol received a warning that he could be disqualified from farming if he faces any further animal welfare charges in the future.