Search launched on cow abuse farm

MPI has confirmed it has executed a search warrant on the farm where a sharemilker was filmed hitting cows with a steel pipe.

The sharemilker remains employed but the farm’s owners have removed him from duties involving unsupervised contact with cows.

The search occurred yesterday after Newsroom published footage gathered by animal advocacy group, Farmwatch, which used hidden cameras to capture the abuse taking place in the farm’s milking shed.

Farmwatch supplied the footage to MPI seven days before the search occurred.

MPI also confirmed it interviewed a person yesterday as part of the investigation. All animals on the farm were inspected, and in independent vet was present.

MPI said it couldn’t comment on the condition of the animals as it forms part of the investigation.

It said monitoring of the farm was ongoing by animal welfare inspectors.

The farm owners issued a short statement through DairyNZ today saying they are “shocked and deeply saddened”.

Former staff from the farm had said they first attempted to raise concerns about the sharemilker’s treatment of cows to the owners but nothing was done.

The owners’ statement says:

“We have been in contact with MPI, Fonterra and Dairy NZ and we will co-operate fully with the formal investigation into this matter.

“As of today the contract milker concerned has been removed from all duties requiring unsupervised contact with stock pending the outcome of due process with regard to our contractual obligations.”

A spokesperson from Fonterra said local Fonterra staff also visited the farm yesterday, “to ensure the farm owners had the support they needed from a personal and business perspective”.

This included providing the farm owners with contact information of support services such as the Rural Support Trust.

“This is something our local teams do as standard practice during events which could cause high stress on farms similar to adverse weather etc.”

Yesterday Fonterra told Newsroom it only takes milk from farmers who meet strict animal welfare standards.

Part of meeting the standards includes supplying health records of animals to Fonterra.

“We also do an annual farm dairy assessment where we ask questions of the farm owner around animal and environmental issues such as the handling of bobby calves.”

Fonterra will continue to take milk from the Northland farm until the formal investigation is complete.

“In this particular Northland case, we are satisfied by the owners' actions that the animal welfare event is over (eg the contract milker has been removed from any unsupervised work with animals).”

The spokesperson said in the last year Fonterra had suspended supply of milk from two farms due to animal welfare concerns.

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