Updated: Agriculture Victoria says a recent conviction in Hamilton Magistrates Court is a reminder to all livestock producers that animal cruelty will not be tolerated.
Agriculture Victoria program manager animal health and welfare compliance Daniel Bode said the farmer fined more than $50,000 this week was in charge of approximately 580 head of cattle on a 220-hectare property in Tahara West.
He said the department attended the property in late July 2021, responding to a complaint received the day before and subsequently conducting a further 5 inspections.
"The cattle were suffering from starvation and internal worm burdens," he said.
"Multiple notices to comply were issued to provide proper and sufficient food and veterinary treatment.
"The pasture on the property was insufficient, and the hay that was provided to the cattle was of extremely poor quality. There was also a lack of supervision as many animals became bogged near a creek."
Mr Bode said apart from the obvious pain and suffering of the animals, animal welfare breaches could jeopardise the stae's reputation as a humane and responsible producer of food, which can in turn affect all producers.
"This is a reminder to all livestock producers that animal cruelty won't be tolerated by the Victorian Government or our community," he said.
Earlier: A fifth-generation Hamilton district farmer has been fined $52,000 after pleading guilty to 10 animal cruelty charges.
Neil Lindsay McIntosh appeared in the Hamilton Magistrates Court where he was convicted and fined over his treatment of a 580 head of Angus and Angus-cross cattle.
Across six inspections, Department of Agriculture officers located and counted 65 deceased animals and another 23 were euthanized on humane grounds, representing 15 per cent of the total herd.
The charges included counts that McIntosh, between May and August 2021, committed acts of animal cruelty by failing to provide sufficient food and veterinary care.
Other charges related to causing unreasonable pain and suffering as 29 cattle were stuck in a creek which resulted in their deaths.
There were also seven counts of aggravated cruelty charges to cows which resulted in serious disablement and death of cattle.
Magistrate Gerard Lethbridge said despite poor weather or personal circumstances, a farmer was responsible for his animals and had to treat them humanely.
He said the offences were serious and led to many cows dying or having to be destroyed.
It was plain from the information before the court the deaths of those cows had been painful and over some duration, with some dying of malnutrition over some days, he said.
The magistrate said McIntosh was an experienced and competent farmer who had caused distress to his cattle and he should have acted with far more vigour than he did.
He said it was a serious example of cruelty which the court must denounce.
The magistrate said the message needed to be sent loud and clear the welfare of animals must be front and centre of the responsible farmer's thinking.
Mr Lethbridge said if McIntosh had prior criminal offences for similar offending he would be being sentenced to serve a jail term.
The court heard McIntosh had been hit by a perfect storm involving emotional pressure, his marriage collapse, the COVID-19 pandemic and financial pressure which knocked out his usual support structure.
But, the magistrate said McIntosh had essentially dealt with the situation through complete avoidance.
Mr Lethbridge said there had been a large number of references submitted to the court on behalf of McIntosh and he was plainly held in high regard in the community and had made a significant contribution.
He said it was also clear livestock on the property were now in excellent condition.
The court heard McIntosh owned a 220 hectare property where in mid-2021 he had 580 Angus and Angus-cross cattle.
On July 26 that year local laws officers went to the property following a report about the welfare of young cattle.
They found 10 dead yearlings under trees and euthanised another to end its suffering.
There were another 14 dead yearlings in a paddock and creek and another six piled against a tree.
Another 40 were alive in the paddock but in poor condition.
A report was made to Agriculture Victoria and its staff attended the property the next day.
They observed a small group of weaners showing signs of severe emaciation.
Subsequent pathology results on deceased animals found they starved.
In a small creek running through the property officers found 17 cattle carcasses.
There were also 36 bales of poor quality hay in a hayshed.
More department officers returned on July 28 and more cows were euthanised to end their suffering.
There were a total of 29 cows found deceased in the creek after they had become stuck in mud and unable to free themselves during the previous month.
Officers found there was very little pasture available for grazing and the hay was insufficient to sustain the number and condition of the cattle on the property.
They formed the opinion the herd of 580 cattle were suffering from malnutrition, starvation and a massive internal parasite burden for several months.
On August 2 officers went back, another 12 cows had recently died and another 15 were euthanised.
In an interview with officers, McIntosh said he last drenched the cows in March and when the weather got wet and cold some cattle animals succumbed and went down so he increased their feeding.
He agreed the feed levels were at the minimum end and if he saw animals down he got them up or euthanised them.
In a second interview on August 2, McIntosh was asked why he thought he had lost 70 cattle in the past two weeks.
"I suppose it's been a combination of poor assessment on my part about their actual condition score, the food on offer, and possibly the value of the feed that they were getting," he said.
"I've never had an issue like this ever.
"I suppose the rainfall over summer probably has thrown worm burdens up too which I perhaps may not have taken into account.
"I've completely misjudged the season, the conditions, their body condition I suppose. Normally I'm very careful."
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