Neb. feeder arrested for animal cruelty: 200 dead animals found on property; flood not to blame
for Tri-State Livestock News
With a love for the work they do, hearing an agriculturalist described as “being married to his job” is not uncommon. But with cattle ranchers and feedlots, individuals also need to be married to ethics to ensure their livestock are being cared for properly.
Feedlot owner, Aaron Ogren, of Exeter, Neb., was arrested on April 16, 2019, by Fillmore County sheriff’s deputies without incident. Ogren was charged with one count of theft by unlawful taking, two counts of prohibited sale of livestock and 26 counts of animal cruelty.
CJ Fell, Area Three investigator for the Nebraska Brand Committee, said he was contacted by the county sheriff to help identify the owners of livestock found on the property.
In regard to the feedlot, Fell describes the environment which cattle were found in to be extremely undesirable. He said cattle were living in “an exorbitant amount of manure and mud” and were not provided dry ground or fresh water.
Exeter is not in an area of the state directly effected by flooding from the super storm that had hit earlier in the month, Fell said. He said the poor living conditions of this particular feedlot stemmed directly from poor management.
“Neglect is just failing to take care of them and failing to provide the necessary food and shelter,” said Dave Horton, interim executive director for the Nebraska Brand Committee. “Abuse goes a little further. Not only neglecting the animal but putting the animal in harm’s way.”
Horton said the phrase “putting the animal in harm’s way” stretches from physical abuse to failing to provide livestock with adequate dry space and proper nourishment.
Despite the weather in Exeter recently being both cold and snowy, Fell said the cattle would have fared better if they had not been contained in such poor living conditions.
Additionally, Fell said while feed bunks at the lot were full, the feed being offered was poor in quality. Old feed was not being removed from the bunks, and cattle were no longer consuming the mixture of old and new feed, Fell said.
Approximately 200 deceased animals were found scattered across Ogren’s property, Fell said. Fell said a majority of the death was caused by abuse. He said cattle were forced to endure a deadly combination of poor living conditions and lack of quality feed and fresh water.
The deceased livestock were found throughout the lot, with some either buried or stacked together and others left in lots with live cattle to become partially buried by manure.
“I don’t believe he was actively removing the carcasses from the pens with live animals,” Fell said.
Over 200 live cattle were also removed from the property and relocated by authorities to a location where Fell said they could be inspected and identified. He said these animals are being cared for until they are healthy enough to be moved by proper owners. A hearing was held on Friday, April 26, to determine what should be done with livestock where ownership could not be identified.
IMPORTANCE OF BRAND INSPECTION
Fell said brand inspection was a “key factor” to helping shed light on the situation at this Exeter feedlot.
“If it hadn’t been for brand inspection, it wouldn’t have been as easy to get this case going,” Fell said. “It was because of some of the victims having branded cattle that I was able to tell something was wrong right away.”
At the end of the day, Horton said this instance in Exeter was a rare case, as “most feedlot owners properly care for their animals.” He urges all cattle ranchers, especially those managing animals in a feedlot scenario, to be sure they are engaging in general good animal husbandry and biosecurity.
While this issue was not created by Mother Nature, Horton said there are other ranchers battling the weather to provide proper living conditions for their livestock. In these cases, Horton said ranchers have ample opportunity to put this idea of “good animal husbandry” into practice.
When natural disaster strikes, like the flooding currently occurring in areas of Nebraska, Horton said ranchers should not be afraid to ask for help. He said it is more important to put pride to the side and seek guidance to properly care for livestock in times of need.
“The ideal situation is not always something we can guarantee when it comes to environment,” said Russ Daly, extension veterinarian at South Dakota State University. “But we can do things to manage cattle to make sure their basic needs and comforts are provided for.”
Daly said ranchers should provide their livestock with the basic necessities, such as proper levels of feed and water adjusted to match an animal’s specific needs, windbreaks, shade structures and bedding.
Most importantly, Daly said ranchers should be sure the proper amounts of energy, protein and trace minerals are being offered to the cattle.
“Really everything starts with nutrition,” he said. “Providing animals with a good diet will not only allow them to take care of their maintenance needs but also support their immune system.”
Daly refers to water as the most important nutrient and said having consistent access to a fresh water source will allow an animal to gain the full benefit of the nutrition provided. Water also positively affects the body’s immune system and ability to ward off germs, he added.
At the end of the day, Daly said all ranchers have limited resources when raising cattle in a feedlot setting. With proper rationing and fresh water, Daly said livestock will better be able to ward off the challenges naturally arising in a feedlot.
Regarding ranchers planning to send cattle to a different location to be fed out, Fell said ranchers should always conduct their own research. And once animals have been sent to a new location, Fell said ranchers should stop in unexpectedly to check on their livestock.
“If you don’t feel something is right, you should contact local law enforcement,” Fell said. ❖
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.