Seized cattle forfeited to county

By Observer Upload April 01, 2013 12:03 pm

 by Katy Nesbitt/The Observer

ENTERPRISE — Cattle seized in an animal neglect case last month were forfeited to Wallowa County in a hearing Friday morning.

Ed Scott, 60, of Lostine, was charged with four counts of first degree animal neglect and 39 counts of second degree animal neglect on March 8 stemming from a Jan. 29 search warrant and subsequent investigation into the death of a calf.

A necropsy by veterinarian Dave Schaefer and a pathology report discovered bruising on the kidneys, indicating the calf had been trampled while still alive. Schaefer said the calf was too weak to get up due to lack of nourishment.

Samples of the hay Scott was feeding his cattle were tested in a lab and Schaefer said it was “markedly deficient in protein.”

In early January, Scott moved his cattle onto his neighbor’s land with the agreement he would be responsible for feeding them. Under oath, Bob Bennett, the landowner, said that Scott only fed the cows every three or four days what appeared to him to be moldy hay.

“It was black,” said Bennett.

Bennett said Scott didn’t feed his cattle from bales, but what looked to him like hay he had cleaned out from his barn. Besides poor quality and feeding only every three or four days, instead of every day as is the custom of most ranchers, Bennett said Scott would come into the pasture with a two-ton truck loaded with hay and would only feed his cows about half of it.

By the end of the month, the Bennetts were so concerned for the cattle they called the sheriff’s office. Bennett said he saw a sick calf and tried to get it up, but was unable.

“When the cows came down to feed, it got squashed,” Bennett said.

Chief Deputy Fred Steen said if the calf had been fed properly it should have weighed 300 to 400 pounds, but the dead calf weighed less than 200 pounds.

Within a month of the search warrant, lab analysis of tissue samples of the calf and samples of the hay were returned. On March 8, the sheriff’s office seized the cattle in place and brought charges of 43 counts of neglect against Scott.

“Based on the totality of the situation, looking at reports of the samples and poor feed and body condition scores — with all that taken into account, we determined the cattle were being neglected,” Steen said.

Paige Sully, attorney for Wallowa County, asked Schaefer on the stand what he thought of the cattle’s general condition. He said beef cattle are rated on a body condition score from 1 to 9 based on their amount of fat, with an ideal rating being a 5 or 6. Scott’s cattle were mostly a 3, Schaefer said, with a few being close to a 4 rating.

Steen, who served the warrant and raises his own cattle, concurred with Schaefer’s analysis and said a rating of a 4 would be very generous.

“They were skin and bones,” Steen said.

Schaefer said some of the cattle could barely walk and were noticeably emaciated. Most of the cows had the outline of their spine and hip bones showing and some had all of their ribs showing through their hide.

Steen said when he served the search warrant, the small amount of hay in the cattle feeder smelled rotten and was inadequate for the 43 head kept at the Bennetts.

“Based on my experience, even if it was good quality grass hay it was not enough to sustain them,” Steen said.

Schaefer, Steen and Bennett all said on the witness stand that no salt blocks were in the field with the cows, an essential element in a cow’s diet.

“It’s a vital component and as essential as feed,” Steen said.

When the sheriff’s staff sorted, marked and photographed each cow and calf, Steen said they were weak and a couple fell down and couldn’t get up. Their behavior was also out of the ordinary.

“They were behaving strangely like they were delirious — they were agitated and very unstable,” Steen said.

So far, three calves and a cow have died, according to Laura Jennings, who lives on the property with the

Sully said Scott and his attorney, Jordie Duckler of Tigard, were notified by mail of the forfeiture hearing; neither appeared in court Friday. A call to Scott revealed that his phone number had been disconnected. A member of Duckler’s staff returned a call to the court Friday morning requesting the hearing not continue, but Judge Russell West declined the request.

It was determined the cost of care and feeding the cattle until the trial is $10,000. Scott will be served a notice allowing him to post bond to keep the cattle from being sold before a trial date set for July 22.