By Andrea Fox
Cattle butchers have struck a beef breeding farm near Whakatane, slaughtering two valuable in-calf cows and forcing the destruction of two others because of gunshot wounds.
Residents of Herepuru Rd about 5km from Matata and 35km from Whakatane are meeting to discuss installing a security camera in the road after the incident last week, in which the cows, among 113 in a paddock near the roadside, were gunned down with a .22 rifle.
Farmer Chrissy Weeks hoped police were following good leads after a woman neighbour in the road on the way to work early last Wednesday morning confronted three men loading up a dark-coloured, late model sedan. Weeks said the neighbour advised the men, who said they had been camping, to move on because the area was private property. The neighbour did not get a number plate because it was covered, Weeks said.
She said the local butcher, who she had quickly advised about the poaching so he would be on the lookout for stolen meat, reported a similar car hanging around his shop.
Edgecumbe police are investigating.
Weeks said the cows, which would have each weighed 550-600kg, were valued at $1500 to $1800 each. The prime cuts had been taken from the butchered animals, she said. The front shoulders had been cut off and left lying.
The poaching strike was clearly pre-meditated and would have taken the best part of a whole night to accomplish, she believed.
"Presumably someone dropped them off and picked them up later. They came down a bank, across a creek and up a bank and must have herded them into a corner. They'd cut a track down, they had ropes to lower the meat down, meat hooks and big sheets of plastic."
Weeks said the killers had obviously been disturbed because they had left much of that gear behind.
The butchered animals were a purebred in-calf hereford cow and an in-calf charolais cross cow.
The animals that had to be put down because their jaws were broken by gunshots were a murray grey cross and an angus-hereford cross.
Weeks is unaware of other reported poaching incidents in the district.
The paddock the cows were in was screened by bush and is used for winter grazing only
She said a neighbourhood meeting of owners of cattle studs, farms and lifestyle blocks in Herepuru Road was proposed to discuss installing a camera in the road to operate 24/7.