Charges to come in death, starvation of Gove Co. cattle

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News

Charges will be filed this week against a Gove County farmer whose cattle herd were left to starve to death.

Gove County Attorney Mark Schmeidler said Friday that he'll file charges this week in the case. Schmeidler said he'd not yet determined the exact nature of the charges.

About 95 cattle died and more than 250 were found starving in a 450-acre pasture south of Gove, confirmed Gove County Sheriff Shawn Mesch.

Mesch declined to release the name of the farmer, as did Schmeidler, until charges are filed.

"There was no disease that caused the cattle to die," Mesch said. "We had the Oakley vet come out and look at the cattle, and there was no disease."

The mixed herd of cattle, including cow-calf pairs, apparently being raised for slaughter, were discovered March 25, he said. The situation was reported by a local farmer.

"We are taking care of them. We're feeding them, we're watering them, we have people from the community helping us," Mesch said.

The cattle were seized by the Sheriff's Office during a search warrant on the pasture.

With the Sheriff's Office taking custody, the cattle remain in the pasture on a meal plan devised by the veterinarian to reduce stress on the animals, he said. 

Mesch declined to go into detail, but said the cattle at the time of discovery "were visibly underfed."

The seizure falls under various state statutes, Mesch said, including those that cover cruelty to animals, requirements to provide food, potable water, and protection from the elements, and treatment of farm animals.

Mesch said his office received guidance from the Kansas Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in handling the matter. If the farmer is convicted, the cattle will be sold and the proceeds used to reimburse the Sheriff's Office and those who assisted with taking care of the animals.

It's not the first time the farmer has had run-ins with law enforcement over his cattle, Mesch noted.

"We've had problems with him not taking care of his fence," he said. "Under the previous sheriff, he was in the process of taking the cattle away. So he fixed the fence."