Farmer acquitted of cattle death charges
Thu, 19 Jul 2012 2:54p.m.
A North Otago farmer has been acquitted of six animal cruelty charges following the deaths of 156 cattle.
A prosecution witness in the trial of Anthony James Lauren, 51, formerly of Kurow, was found to lack credibility and Judge Joanna Maze dismissed the charges in Oamaru District Court on Thursday.
She said it was difficult to see what further action Mr Lauren could have taken to look go after the cattle.
During the trial Mr Lauren said he had taken on a share milking job in Timaru and had employed Simon Johnston, a farming contractor, to feed calves on the low country of a Kurow property he was leasing in 2009.
Later when 315 calves were added on the hill block of the property Mr Lauren said he there had been enough feed on the block for about six weeks and he instructed Mr Johnston to check on them every week and to let him know when they needed to be brought down to new pasture.
Mr Lauren said he had called Mr Johnston towards the end of that time and had been told the cattle were all right.
Later a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry inspector and a vet were called by neighbours who had found 143 dead cows and calves on the property.
Another 13 cows and calves had to be destroyed and a further 185 calves were also found to be starving.
At the trial Mr Johnston had denied any knowledge of the animals on the hill block or that he had been contracted to take care of them.
But Judge Maze said that she found him to lack credibility and that his evidence was unreliable.
She said she was satisfied that Mr Johnston had been engaged, instructed and paid by Mr Lauren to take care of all the stock on the farm.
He was satisfied Mr Lauren had taken all practical steps to ensure the cattle were properly taken care of.
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