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NZ Farm Manager Fined For Cutting Teats Off With Scissors
July 14, 2016

A Taranaki farm manager has been fined more than $3500 for cutting off the teats of 12 cows with a pair of scissors and no pain relief.

The New Plymouth District Court heard how Claudio Nubio Da Costa was employed on an Okato farm last year when he took matters into his own hands and performed an operation on the animals, all of which had teat injuries.

The summary of facts said the 47-year-old had worked in various farming roles over the last 13 years and at the time of the offending, between August and September last year, was employed as a contract milker.

On November 5, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) received a complaint on its animal welfare hotline about the occlusion, or blockage, of teats of 12 dairy cows belonging to the owners of the farm where Da Costa worked.

The property owners found the cows to have missing teats and asked for help from a veterinarian to find out what happened to them.

When interviewed by an animal welfare inspector, Da Costa admitted he had performed the surgery and had not given the cows any pain relief.

“In explanation for his actions, the defendant stated the cows had bad lacerations to their teats and he considered it the quickest and cheapest method of remedying the issue,” the summary said.

“The defendant stated the lacerations were already causing the cows pain and he did not believe he caused them any more pain by placing the ring on and then cutting them off with scissors.”

While he was required to talk about any problems or potential vet costs with the farm owners, Da Costa did not do this.

The summary of facts stated that the New Zealand Veterinary Association opposed the occlusion of teats, or any physical process which leads to a permanent blocking of the teat canal, and deemed it “to be an act of gross cruelty which warrants prosecution”.

Expert veterinary opinion was sought by MPI regarding the case and it was found that while the cows did have lacerations to the teats it was considered “highly unlikely” amputation would have been required.

Da Costa’s lawyer Jo Woodcock said he accepted he made the wrong decision and deeply regretted his actions.

She said he was still “at a loss” to explain why he decided to proceed with the surgery and had since resigned from his job. The offending also resulted in significant financial consequences for Da Costa, she said.

Woodcock asked Judge Chris Sygrove to take into account her client’s early guilty pleas and the fact he was a first offender.

Sygrove said Da Costa performed the surgery despite the fact that he was not qualified to do so and did not seek any advice, provide any pain relief to the animals nor any follow up care.

The judge said with Da Costa’s farming experience both in Brazil and New Zealand, the defendant should have known better but gave him credit for the early guilty pleas.

On the surgical procedure charge, Sygrove convicted the defendant and fined him $3,750.

Da Costa was convicted and discharged on the ill-treatment charge.

By: Deena Coster


Summer 2018