Victorian Mallee farmer fined for seriously neglected sheep

Sheep Central, April 6, 2023

A VICTORIAN Mallee farmer has been fined $65,000 and disqualified for 25 years from owning any farm animal or being a person in charge of any farm animal.

The fine and disqualifications came after the farmer pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges and being sentenced recently at the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court.

Agriculture Victoria program manager for animal health and welfare compliance Daniel Bode said Steven Ralston was convicted of 14 charges, including multiple failures to provide proper and sufficient food and drink to his livestock, a failure to treat flystrike sheep and a breach of a previously imposed order by the court requiring Mr Ralston to provide appropriate care to his stock.

“The court heard the charges related to a failure to provide food and drink and an outbreak of flystrike in a flock of more than 1320 sheep at Mr Ralston’s properties in Corack and Chinkapook between March and April 2020.”

Mr Bode said Agriculture Victoria officers first attended the property in early March 2020 in response to an animal welfare complaint.

“During the first inspection, officers observed approximately 500 head of sheep of mixed age and sex with long wool and dags.

“Some were observed to be wool blind, preventing them from finding food, shelter and escaping predators.

“Ten sheep, including young weaner aged sheep were observed to have flystrike, and one was euthanised due to its poor body condition,” Mr Bode said.

Mr Bode said Mr Ralston also failed to register adequate Property Identification Codes (PIC) information for his Corack and Chinkapook properties. His PIC covered 17 parcels of land in Corack, but not the other 16 parcels of land that he had livestock on in Corack. Additionally, Mr Ralston did not have a PIC for the seven parcels of land in Chinkapook.

He said officers attended the properties on six separate occasions and issued several Notices to Comply.

“Over this time, sheep were found in barren paddocks, and shearing sheds without adequate food or drink and appeared weak and lethargic.”

Following the plea being entered in late 2022 Departmental officers were required to intervene on Mr Ralstons’ properties at Chinkapook due to further concerns with the welfare of the animals.

Over the course of a number of inspections a large number of sheep were found deceased or in such poor condition that they were required to be humanely euthanised. Given the condition of the sheep, the department implemented an immediate seizure of the majority of the remaining animals.

Magistrate Saines stated the level of neglect and suffering experienced was appalling and confronting, and what was most relevant was that this offending occurred before, during and after the accused was being sentenced for earlier similar offences.

“This is a reminder to all livestock producers that animal cruelty will not be tolerated by the Victorian Government or the community,” Mr Bode said.

“If you are responsible for the care of any animal, you have a duty to provide for that animal including ensuring disease or parasites are treated appropriately.”

Anyone wishing to make a specific complaint in regard to the welfare of commercial livestock on Victorian farms can contact Agriculture Victoria on 136 186 or [email protected]


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