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Police Still Investigating Disappearance Of 500 Cows In NZ
September 2, 2016

Police investigating the disappearance of 500 dairy cows from an Ashburton farm will be following a milk trail worth $900,000 as they keep an open mind on a popular theory that the in-calf cattle went to the meat blackmarket.

All-up, the cows represent a loss of around $2 million to their owners.

The missing friesian-cross mixed-age cows – which number¬†more than the average New Zealand dairy herd – went from a winter grazing property adjacent to their owners’¬†Norvo¬†Farm in mid-Canterbury.

According¬†to industry figures they would have been¬†expected to produce around 188,000 kilograms of milksolids or 2.25 million litres of milk this season. ¬†Fonterra, the dairy¬†processor the farm supplies, recently increased its milk price forecast for the current season to $4.75kg milksolids, which means a potential loss of more than $890,000 to the farm owners, and possibly around¬†$1 million with Fonterra shares included.¬†That’s¬†on top of the value of the cows and their AB (artificial breeding)¬†friesian and jersey calves which conservatively would top $1 million.

As local farmers worry about the security of their own livestock amid speculation that the theft is the ongoing work of organised criminals in the Canterbury region, police imply it may be hasty to buy into speculation the cows were secreted away in small numbers and that their disappearance is the work of rustlers.

Police confirmed they would be checking with milk processing companies for any unscheduled spikes in milk supply, as well as with meat processors, as part of their wide-ranging inquiries. The “background” of the farming of the cows was also being looked into.

The cows were being winter grazed on a property adjacent to the farm¬†owned by the Norvo company, whose shareholders according to the Companies Office are¬†Linda Pike, Peter Ormsby, Margaret Ormsby and Southstone Farm’s Troy and Michele Hinton-Bosch, all of Ashburton. ¬†The Ormsbys are an established dairy farming family in the district and Norvo Farm is administered by their daughter Pennie¬†Saunders. ¬†Her husband Mark Saunders, who also farms in the area, said the cows were winter-grazing on the adjacent farm with the staff who milked them.

Norvo Farm usually carried about 1350 cows, Saunders¬†said.¬† Shareholder Troy Hinton-Bosch has been reported as saying the cows¬†were not insured for theft.¬†¬†Saunders rejected a claim by local Federated Farmers leader¬†Willy Leferink¬†that police had “taken several days” to respond to advice the cows were missing. Leferink¬†said he had been told the cows were “still there on July 10”.

“We¬†only had solid data last Thursday (August 25) and even the Friday,” Saunders¬†said. It had been just a “hunch” numbers were down until then.¬†The police had been advised and the response had been “phenomenal”, Saunders said.
He declined to further discuss events because of the police investigation.

The incident has further spooked Canterbury farmers who in December learned of the theft of 120 dairy animals from three South Canterbury farms.  In March nine cattle were stolen from a North Canterbury farm.

The country’s second-biggest milk processor after Fonterra, Open Country Dairy, said new, unscheduled milk from 500 cows coming on-stream would be quickly picked up by a dairy company. “Someone would notice it. It would be very difficult to do,” said chief executive Steve Koekemoer.

It was¬†also unlikely an unscheduled influx of¬†in-calf dairy cows to a meat processor would go unnoticed, said observers. The thieves would run into problems in either case with the matter of the cows’ ear-tags,required under New Zealand’s national identification traceability¬†law (Nait) for cattle and deer. These could be removed but replacing them with new tags to make a sale would be a challenge because newly-issued¬†tags would carry¬†¬†recent birth dates which would not match the age of the cattle. Police said Nait tag sales were being investigated.

The¬†missing cow case has highlighted rural residents’ concerns about timely police responses to reports of theft and trespass.

Canterbury district police commander Superintendent John Price was asked by NZ¬†Farmer to respond to claims by Leferink that Ashburton people, especially rural residents, were fed-up with a police lack of response to complaints about local crime, and that police had taken “several days” to respond to the mass missing dairy cow report.

In a written response Price said: “Canterbury police encourage all rural residents to report all instances of crime and suspicious activity. We take all reports seriously and assess each case on the information received, in order to respond appropriately. Anyone who witnesses suspicious vehicles, activity or people on or around their properties is asked to call 111 immediately. If possible make note of the vehicle’s registration number and a description of the vehicle and what it was carrying…..For crimes such as theft, which particularly on rural properties may be discovered some time¬†after the fact, police encourage people to notify them as soon as they can, and every step possible is taken in order¬†to follow up. All information is valuable, as although sometimes it may appear there is no immediate resolution, it can help police form a bigger picture of what is happening in a certain area and prevent similar incidents happening in future…”

Police focus on rural crime is improving but farming community reporting of incidents is “atrocious”, says a farmer who heads a new rural-police working group.¬† Rick¬†Powdrell, Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairman, said police now understand the criminal threat in rural areas is a bigger problem than they realised, but it is¬†also up to farming families to report incidents.

He chairs a group of national rural organisation representatives who meet with police quarterly. ¬†Powdrell¬†said a Federated Farmers survey of members about¬†stock thefts found only 39 per cent of incidents were reported to police, with¬†78 per cent believing¬†police were not interested or did not have the resources to cope.¬† “We’ve moved two years down the track from that and I can definitely say there’s been an improvement in the police focus.”

Community policing co-ordinator, Senior Sergeant¬†Alasdair¬†Macmillan who pulled the working group together last year¬†said the survey had been “a real eye-opener”.

“We are all about building trust and confidence and to have part of the community feel that way about police really got to the core of me. After 41 years on the job I still have a real passion for it and to think people thought that about police wasn’t good enough.”

Macmillan urged farming communities to be police¬†“eyes and ears” by phoning 111 or Crimestoppers, an anonymous service, and by taking vehicle¬†registration numbers.

Powdrell¬†said farmers know¬†their areas better than anyone.¬†“You know If you look at something and it looks dodgy, nine out of 10 times it is. Police want you to ring it in. They might not respond immediately but if someone else rings up in two days with the same number plate you’ve taken they can start building a picture.”

Police offer an interactive rural security checklist at

By: Andrea Fox


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