The recent case of Avondale Pastoral Limited Partnership v Saunders Dairy Holdings Limited [2022] NZHC 966

In May 2015, Avondale and Saunders signed up to a cattle grazing agreement.  It said that:

1.       Avondale would graze 400 of their cows on Saunders’ farm.

2.       Avondale would pay Saunders $32 per cow per week for the grazing right.

3.       Saunders would feed each of the cows 15kg of dry matter every day.

There wasn’t, however, anything in the agreement that required Saunders to return the cows to Avondale in a certain condition.

Disaster struck at the end of the grazing – at least for Avondale.  When the cows came back from the grazing, many were in a poor condition.  The majority had a low body condition score and none of them were in an optimal condition for calving.  A court case ensued.

In the District Court, the Judge agreed that the cows were in a poor condition, but said that it was unclear why this was so the case.  He decided that Saunders had taken reasonable care of the cows.

The High Court agreed with the earlier court finding.  In particular, the Judge said there wasn’t any evidence of the condition of the cows prior to grazing so the appeal failed.

The case contains important lessons about grazing contracts.  If you’re going to sign up to one for your cows, get legal advice first. To ensure that your cows are returned to you in a certain condition, this should be clearly set out in the agreement.  You should also record the condition of the cows prior to grazing, and regularly check in to confirm their ongoing condition.  

If you would like to discuss this case and how it may affect you, please contact us.