An Adelaide woman accused of neglecting cattle under her care for several winter months, leaving them starved and lice-ridden, has faced court.
But 63-year-old Susan Gristwood says the RSPCA, which has charged her with animal cruelty, opened a locked gate on the farm and allowed the cattle to feed on poisonous bracken fern.
The RSPCA disputed this claim when Gristwood appeared in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Friday.
Gristwood, from Glen Osmond, is facing 30 counts of ill-treatment of an animal.
The RSPCA allege the prize-winning cattle breeder failed to adequately feed dozens of cattle at a Hindmarsh Tiers property between July and September last year.
However, Gristwood's lawyer, Dale Mazzachi, at an earlier hearing said someone from the RSPCA came to the property and opened a locked gate to let the cattle feed on another paddock.
He said this paddock was infested with bracken fern, which is harmful to the animals and contributed to their ill-health.
Mr Mazzachi also said a lice infestation caused the cattle to lose some of their appetite.
Gristwood's husband, Ronald Gristwood, a prominent Adelaide surgeon, was also originally charged with animal cruelty but these charges were later dropped.
Prof Gristwood is an ear, nose and throat specialist and has been recognised with a Member of the Order of Australia award for his contribution to medicine.
The case will return to the Adelaide Magistrates Court on December 3.