Footage of sheep struggling in mud to be investigated

Dirty sheep graze in a muddy paddock in Southland last month. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Dirty sheep graze in a muddy paddock in Southland last month. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Footage of mud-caked sheep struggling to walk under the weight has been published by an animal welfare lobby group, and will be investigated.

Video footage was shot in Southland last weekend at a property Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) claims has had ongoing issues with winter grazing.

Photographs taken early last month at the same property show sheep standing in thick mud.

MPI animal welfare and NAIT compliance regional manager Murray Pridham said while the MPI had not been notified of the video or received a complaint from SAFE, it would contact the organisation for more information and the location of the farm so an inspection could be conducted to establish any welfare issues.

"MPI inspectors have been supporting efforts to educate farmers about their responsibilities during winter-grazing season," he said.

"This has included conducting proactive visits of farms in Southland to ensure animals have been properly cared for."

SAFE head of investigations Will Appelbe said winter grazing was widespread, and every year the organisation saw the same issues.

"Not only are these sheep caked in mud, but they’re also struggling to walk. This suggests that they’re lame, which is one of the risks of winter grazing.

"The Animal Welfare Act 1999 is clear that animals should be provided with adequate shelter. Nothing about this footage is adequate.

"The agriculture industry should be aware by now that winter brings with it cold, wet and snowy temperatures, forcing animals to stand in mud, which is utter neglect."

Environment Southland (ES) resource management manager Donna Ferguson said while ES responded to all incidents of potentially poor winter-grazing practices that were reported, the footage and photos had not been supplied to ES by SAFE.

"We have not been given any location information to follow this up, therefore we cannot identify from photos if there are any breaches of the rules."

Animal welfare concerns should be directed to the MPI, which was responsible for that aspect, she said.