86 cattle killed by ground tractor battery, poisoning may have been accidental
October 18, 2016
Two weeks ago, Joel Moser, of Alvord, Iowa, had 102 fat and healthy steers, cows, and calves. The current count is 16 live animals.
Over the weekend of Oct. 8 and 9, Moser's herd consumed feed contaminated by acid of a tractor battery that was found in the feeder wagon. Moser and his wife were out of town. As of Tuesday, nine steers were alive, though two are blind; four cows are alive, though two have their feet in the grave, Moser said; and three calves are still standing, but for how long, no one knows.
"We just sat there and watched them quit eating, and they just shrunk up and started dying," Moser said. "When you get 10 to 15, even 20 head, dying in a day, it's just insane, and there's nothing you can do for them."
"Right now we're still doing the investigation, still doing interviews," said Lyon county sheriff Stewart VanderStoep. "Back when it first happened, before we started the investigation, it looked intentional. As we're going along, it's looking more and more to where this was an accidental poisoning. We haven't put all the pieces together, but it may not have been criminal event. Until we can say for sure it isn't, we're still treating it as could be intentional."
Iowa State University was consulted and but the treatments were ineffective. For some of the suffering animals, Moser's friends came and put animals down.
"The second heifer that died, number 15, her mother was a pound cow. I was going to sell her this fall. She died and so did the calf at her side," Moser said. "When you have that few of cows, you know them. I remember the day they were born and now I'm watching them die. They're more than just a commodity; it's like having a bunch of dogs that get to be a part of you."
Moser has no leads as to who would poison his cattle.
"I might never know what actually happened. I've got to accept that I might go to the grave with it," Moser said.
Whether the cattle are insured, Moser is unsure.
"The adjustor is coming today. We hope to get something, enough to survive," he said. "Our paycheck is gone now, the equity too. It wasn't much anyway, but now there's a big hole. I'm not a big producer, it's just a small cow-calf herd, 76 fat cattle, 76 calves in spring. That was everything."
Moser was slated to sell some steers this month and the remainder in December.
"We've had a ton of support; a lot of people call and text and pray. We can feel the support," Moser said. "At the end of the day, if I'm done with cattle, I may be done with it. I said, 'Lord, this is your deal, it's not mine anymore. If you want to allow them to live, they'll live, and if not, that's the way it is.'"
Moser hopes no other farmers go through what he has.
"We don't know whose next, if anyone. Box your feeder wagon up," Moser said. "It sucks going out and looking for dead cattle everyday and dragging them into a big hole the excavator dug."
"It's just a horrible feeling watching cattle die like that. I feel so sorry for Joel," VanderStoep said. "It's a good reminder to keep track of strange vehicles that come onto your yard and make sure your equipment is up to par and in order. I hope to never see that again."