South-west sheep and cattle farmer fined for cruelty

A SOUTH-WEST farmer will be monitored for the next 18 months after pleading guilty to animal cruelty charges.

Christopher Nelson, 57, of Warrnambool, appeared in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court this week facing nine charges brought by the Department of Agriculture.

The department prosecutor told the court that in 2015 the condition and welfare of sheep and cattle on Nelson’s Hawkesdale area farms was brought to the department’s attention.

A subsequent visit by animal specialists observed a flock of 200 sheep that were predominantly emaciated, weak and staggering, with little available feed, the court heard.

The department prosecutor said one sheep had to be euthanased due to its level of malnutrition. An autopsy revealed the presence of lungworm and stomach worms. Other sheep on the property were unable to stand and also had worm infestations.

A further assessment of the property estimated some of the sheep were losing a kilogram a month and were half the optimum weight for their age.

Inspection of the paddocks showed the pasture was as low as five millimetres long and it was predicted at least 30 per cent of the animals would die in the short term without supplementary food.

Inspectors also found four improperly castrated Angus bulls suffering with “grossly swollen scrotums”.

In an interview with Department of Agriculture staff, Nelson expressed remorse and said personal issues had got in the way of his farming. 

Defence counsel Alex McCulloch said his client had complied with all notice given to him by the department, and had been upfront, honest and remorseful in his dealings with them.

The court heard the improper castration of the bulls had happened despite “following the manufacturer’s instructions” in regards to the castration rings, and Nelson had returned to the rural store where he had purchased the rings, only to be told the bulls’ testicles “would drop in time”.

But his client “puts his hand up” that he shouldn’t have sought treatment for the bulls, Mr McCulloch said.

The court heard Nelson worked in Warrnambool but had been involved in farming for many years. 

Magistrate Cynthia Toose fined Nelson $4000 and ordered that an independent consultant be appointed to monitor Nelson’s farming practices once every three months for 18 months.