Tatura farmer appeals animal cruelty sentence

By Country News

A Tatura farmer charged with animal cruelty was sentenced to two months and 25 days in prison and fined $10 000, but he almost immediately appealed the sentence.

John Hall, 67, was also disqualified from being in charge of farm animals for 10 years.

Hall pleaded guilty in Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on Friday to one cruelty charge, five aggravated cruelty charges and one of failing to comply with a notice.

The animal cruelty charge relates to failing to provide the animals with proper and sufficient food, while the aggravated animal cruelty charges stemmed from an act of cruelty that resulted in the death of the animal, and four counts of cruelty which resulted in the serious disablement of animals.

Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions prosecutor Laura Krumins told the court a veterinarian visited the property on February 11 last year as part of a prior court order from December 2017 that required a vet to report every three months on the health and welfare of the farm animals.

The 106 dairy cows and 99 beef cattle were assessed as having a body condition score — which is a system of estimating the body condition of cattle based on healthy body fat and muscle — of between 3.5 and 4.5 out of a possible score of eight.

Mrs Krumins said on March 26, a Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions district veterinary officer and an animal health officer found a recumbent cow — one that was lying down but not able to rise itself — which died within minutes of their arrival.

The court heard the cow had a high level of intestinal worms — almost six times the level for which treatment was usually recommended.

The court heard a calf, which was blind in both eyes from pink eye, as well as four recumbent cows, were put down on March 27, while another two cows were euthanased on April 8 and May 30.

A cattle assessment at the property on May 24 found that all but one of the 156 cows assessed had a body condition score of between one and three.

Dairy Australia considers a body condition score between three and six to be healthy.

Hall’s solicitor Emma King said her client had reduced his herd to 50, from about 200.

She told the court how Hall had sold his water rights to enable him to buy out his siblings’ share of the farm and when he lost money in the Banksia Finance collapse.

“The feed he was able to source was low and hard to come by,” Ms King said.

The prosecutor asked for Hall be disqualified from having animals on his property.

“A message needs to be sent to the accused and the community that animal welfare is important,” Mrs Krumins said.

Ms King said if this happened, Hall would de-stock and change to cropping.

A date for Hall’s appeal has not yet been set.