Farmer battles cattle killings

Whakamarama farmer Barry Skokandich is fighting a vendetta against people killing his cattle and sabotaging his vehicles, he says.

For six years he says a vicious campaign has continued with his prized highland cattle being killed off one by one with three dead in the last two weeks.

Barry Skokandich with the skull of one of his dead stock, showing bullet holes.

Barry, who has a farm on Whakamarama Road, knows who is responsible for the killings but has no proof to take to police.

He says the irony is that he was not the original target - it was another neighbour who had lost turkeys, dogs, and suffered heart attacks because of an ongoing feud.

“The other neighbour, it happened to him for six years too,” says Barry.

“I negotiated an agreement between them to settle it because it couldn't be sorted out in the High Court in Rotorua. I talked between the two of them and got a settlement, and the guy turned on me.

“The aim of it is to force me over the edge. If I break the law they can get me. They are using my animals as bait to try to get rid of me, or do something to me.”

Barry's highland cattle are not being killed for meat, they are being killed outright, or just left to die, he says.

Last week Barry discovered one of his cattle had been hit over the head with a sledgehammer, and then on Monday another was found dead.

“It leaves no marks on the outside of the body,” says Barry.

“A sledgehammer transfers the energy into the brain and stuns the animal, it slips on its back and chokes on the vomit that comes out of its stomach.

“Sometimes it takes a week for them to die. The ones that have their jaw broken, it takes about a week to die. The calf killed a few days back it was maybe hit on top of the head with a hammer. Not enough to knock him dead straight away, but enough to knock it silly.”

After being hit the two week old calf couldn't eat, couldn't drink and took four days to die.

The realisation of what was happening dawned on Barry when he saw the skulls of his bull ‘Sitting Bull' and another cow killed several years ago.

Five years ago a buyer turned down the neighbour's bull in preference to Barry's highland bull.

Two weeks later Sitting Bull was brain damaged, says Barry.

“He just basically dehydrated and starved to death. I nursed him for about a week until he died and I never knew what was wrong with him.”

Barry buried Sitting with another cow killed about the same time but couldn't fit the bodies into the hole, leaving the heads exposed. It was by accident years later that he saw the skulls with the hammer mark, and the bullet holes.

“That was what really shocked me, because I then figured out who it was,” says Barry.

“They know I'm onto them but they are systematically killing my animals, and it's been going on now for ages.”

Six years ago seven calves were killed to do with deer poaching, says Barry.

“These guys, one of them in particular, are poaching these stags at night time. It took me ages to figure out what was going on. I was given the cattle to graze up there and the first time I put them up there they started killing my cattle.”

Barry even says he has been target and almost killed three times.

He believes the same people responsible for the stock killings have also loosened the suspension bolts on his car.

His mechanic discovered the suspension bolts on the left side of the car were about to fall off when he went for a warrant of fitness.

“If the left side drops on the car you will rotate around to the left,” says Barry.

“It means the driver, me, on the right side will slide into the traffic and kill myself, and kill whoever's coming towards me.”

Barry says he has also had oil drained from a motor, gearbox and transfer case of cars and had the brake fluid drained. Police were initially sceptical, says Barry. Now they are warning him to be careful.

“The police have had one of them in for questioning, and they have had to let him go because they couldn't prove anything - and they are confident. They are confident in their method.

“I've seen them approaching my place I've almost caught them one day. I've seen how they work as a team.

“But the thing is if I catch them they have got guns. I had the police out here today. They said these guys will go to prison for what they have done, and they will kill me to stay out of prison.”

Meanwhile Barry is continuing to bury cattle. He's lost 32 highland cattle in the last six years. He's got other mixed breed cattle on the 30 acre block, but they haven't been touched.

“The big bull worth about $50,000 that's just been killed, he's so tame he'd go pick a grape fruit out of my mouth.

“I've never retaliated once against them, but it's just been kill, kill, kill. I think they will keep going until there no highland ones left.”

He's got five dead beasts awaiting burial at the moment, says Barry.

“When I first started telling people they wouldn't believe it. The neighbours are in shock because it's like a war zone up here.  It took me six years to figure out what was going on. I don't expect people in one week or one month to know what's going on.

“It's not the sort of thing you expect up Whakamarama.”

Tauranga animal welfare inspector Jason Blair is concerned about hearing of what is happening to Barry.

He says he has never heard of anyone intentionally killing stock before.

“It is not something you hear of at all really. It seems to be an isolated incident, so it's hard to know how somebody can protect their animals.

“Certainly they are prone to rustling but due to the layout and nature of farms it's hard to take any steps to protect stock.”
“You can only surmise about someone's motivation. If it's an isolated property, you could understand if it's some sort of personal grudge.”
Jason says people who are concerned about the safety of their stock should report it straightaway.

“There will be a dual response. It will be a police matter and a criminal offence if the animals are killed outright. The only avenue the SPCA could pursue is if we could prove someone killed an animal and it suffered an inhumane death.

Bullet holes in the skull of one of Barry's stock.