Carl Ryan McNaught

Published on Nov 10 2017

A Canterbury farmer who abused dozens of cows has been urged to get anger management counselling or face a possible prison sentence.

The advice was clear from the Ministry for Primary (MPI) Industries and Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders as 29-year-old Carl Ryan McNaught was convicted on three charges on Friday after his judge-alone trial.

MPI prosecutor Grant Fletcher sought a long remand before sentence to give McNaught a chance to arrange counselling for anger management and stock management techniques.

Judge Saunders went further, telling McNaught a jail term would be considered and the best thing he could do ahead of sentencing on February 20 would be to get counselling about anger management, temper, and self-control.

“Whatever you do between now and sentencing will be taken into account and that will include whether a disqualification order is required,” the judge said.


Veterinary inspections found between 41 and 47 cows on the farm McNaught managed at Hororata in 2015 had tails that had been broken within the last six weeks.

Judge Saunders ruled in his reserved decision given on Friday: “I am unable to accept the defendant’s evidence that on the occasions he took hold of a tail to effect a change of direction or to guide the cow, that he only applied minimum force.”

After the judge’s decision, MPI animal welfare inspector Gary Dixon commented: “The case sends a message that tail breaking in the industry is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated by the ministry.”

McNaught had denied charges involving tail breaking, punching and kicking cows, and striking one with a metal bar, and also recklessly ill-treating a calf by running it down with a quad bike.

Judge Saunders said there had been a credible and coherent description of what happened when the calf was run over and he could not find that McNaught deliberately ran it down. That charge was dismissed.

The judge found two other charges proved alleging McNaught had tipped dairy cows onto the ground, kicked, punched them, or struck one of them with a metal bar, and that he was responsible for breaking the tails of some cows.

He was also convicted of failing to provide treatment to alleviate pain and distress for the cows with broken tails.

The trial was told the dairy herd was well fed and the farm was well managed, but staff saw McNaught mistreating the animals. One reported her concerns to MPI.

McNaught accepted he had a temper and had kicked or struck animals, but denied causing any injury and breaking the tails.

Judge Saunders said it was accepted the violence arose from frustrations and the stress McNaught was working under on the farm at that time.


November 2017 – South Canterbury farmer Daniel Alexander Little was put on home detention for four months after breaking the tails of 81 cows, attacking some with so much force it sound like “a branch breaking” to witnesses.

December 2016 – West Coast farmer Warren Arthur McNabb is fine $15,000 after 210 of his cows were found with broken tails.

November 2016 – North Otago farmer Jeffrey Wright was given four months’ community detention and ordered to complete 100 hours’ community work after admitting he broke the tails for 48 dairy cows.

December 2015 – Taranaki farmer Rodney Spence Wilson was fined $20,000 for breaking the tails of 157 cows in his dairy herd.

October 2014 – Stratford dairy farmer Timothy James Gilbert was sentenced to nine months’ supervision, 260 hours’ community work and fined $10,000 for twisting and breaking 110 cows’ tails. 

September 2013 – Taranaki farmer Saul Jacob Beaumont was sentenced to four months’ home detention and disqualified from working with dairy cattle for five years after breaking the tails of 46 cows.