AN EPPING Forest farmer who kept a ``death pit'' full of dead sheep has been found guilty of cruelty to animals.
Yesterday, Magistrate Simon Brown found that Philip Colin Osborne, 62, caused unreasonable and unjustifiable pain and/or suffering to 300 weaning merino sheep on his farm.
In June 2011, authorities visited his property Fairfield to find about 300 weaners in very poor condition.
An agricultural officer euthanised 15 sheep and discovered a death pit containing about 150 sheep.
During the June hearing, Colin Jessup said he could not be sure how many were in the pit.
``There was water in the bottom of it and I could not determine how many were under the water,'' he told RSPCA prosecutor Glenn Carey.
According to Mr Jessup, crows had pecked out one of the sheep's eye while it was still alive.
The sheep were starving, with only bracken fern and coarse tussock to eat, he said.
In his written decision, Mr Brown found the weaners were shorn before reaching a weight optimal for survival.
When bad weather hit the flock in June, they were left grazing on a turnip paddock for almost a week.
``During that period sheep were dying. They were not protected from the weather,'' Mr Brown said.
``The defendant could have done a number of things to relieve their suffering.
``Rather (he) effectively did nothing.''
Osborne accepted that up to 240 of the 300 weaners ended up dead between their shearing in April and June.
The court heard Osborne had employed a shepherd to oversee his 13,000 sheep in June 2011.
The man was in charge of the whole farm while Osborne was away from June 10 to 20.
Osborne pleaded not guilty to two counts of mismanaging animals and one count of cruelty to animals.
Mr Brown found all charges were proven but not at all times alleged.
The matter was adjourned for sentencing on September 30.