A farmer has been fined $60,000 and banned from owning farm animals for 10 years.
Graeme Rex Hodge, 69, had previously pleaded guilty to 24 animal cruelty charges, including a number of aggravated cruelty that led to the death and serious illness of cattle in his care.
The offending occurred between May 2019 and March 2020, with the charges laid by Agriculture Victoria in May 2020.
The court had heard Hodge, a farmer of 40 years, owned hundreds of mixed cattle on eight properties in the Shire of Buloke.
The calves had distended stomachs due to eating large amounts of straw with an inadequate nutritional value and they had no access to water or pasture.
In another paddock inspectors found a young angus heifer deceased in an upturned feed trough and the court heard inspectors determined the animal had suffered and most likely died of organ failure.
During one subsequent visit inspectors found two carcasses at the dam bank on another of Hodge's properties, and during another they found 139 adult pregnant and lactating cows in the same paddock as steers and bulls.
That day officers also found a dead black angus cow with a faeces pile at her rear and deep paddle marks on her legs indicating she had been "recumbent for a prolonged period prior to her death".
Her right eye was missing with clotting blood oozing out, indicating her eye was predated while she was alive.
Inspectors observed myiasis near her udder - a parasitic infestation where maggots grow inside the animal and feed on its tissue - and determined they had been there for at least 12 hours prior to her death.
She was found to have suffered from starvation and dehydration and was carrying a full-term foetus.
During subsequent visits inspectors found more deceased animals, including cows that had died during calving.
While more feed was present as time went on, many of the animals remained underweight and in poor conditions.
The court heard the cattle were largely "not segregated by type, sex or class which resulted in there being many pregnant cows and calves" and that due to inadequate pasture, the animals were solely reliant on supplementary feed.
Several were euthanised due to a lack of veterinary treatment.
On one occasion Hodge "became irate and yelled" at and threatened officers. The next day the inspectors returned to the property with police and when attempting to leave found the entrance gate locked with a "heavy duty chain".
The court had heard Hodge "yelled in an aggressive and intimidating manner and refused to unlock the gate" despite police requests and his wife attempting to take the keys to unlock it herself.
Police intervened, but Hodge continued to be aggressive - yelling and pushing the officer - while his wife pleaded with him to unlock the gate.
Eventually police cut through the gate with wire cutters, allowing officers to leave.
Negligible record keeping and incorrect or inadequate traceability of the cattle contributed to the investigation being difficult, the court heard.
Hodge had previously fronted court in St Arnaud in 2018 for similar offending, with a conditional Control Order ultimately imposed for five years under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.
Hodge fronted the Ballarat Magistrates' Court on Thursday, where he was sentenced by Magistrate Hugh Radford.
He sentenced Hodge on the basis of his guilty plea and the remorse it indicated.
"Any right thinking farmer who entered your property and saw the state of the cattle in your care and control would have been aware of the distress of the animals," he said.
He accepted Hodge made "some efforts" in respect to care and was feeding the animals, though the feed was inadequate.
Mr Radford fined Hodge $60,000.
"I don't accept you are so financially stressed you couldn't have sought access to buy more nutritious feed," he told Hodge.
He also disqualified him from owning farm animals for 10 years, which he said reduced the likelihood of reoffending. The order will begin from August.
He was placed on a community corrections order for a period of two years.
"This shows such behaviour, the abject lack of care, is something the courts won't accept," he said.
Had he not pleaded guilty he would have been sentenced to two years in prison.
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