LEFOR, N.D. — The Stark County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a case involving 25 dead dairy calves and a pig that were located earlier this month near Lefor, N.D., approximately 24 miles southeast of Dickinson.
Law enforcement authorities have determined that this incident does not involve current North Dakota residents, nor an active farming, ranching or dairy operation, according to a Stark County Sheriff's Office Facebook post early Tuesday evening, March 23.
The Stark County Sheriff’s Office on March 12 received a report from a concerned landowner in Lefor who discovered the animals. Authorities are working with the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and the State Veterinarian’s Office to follow up with the cattle owners and determine the cause of death, Lt. Eldon Mehrer said. As of now, there is no definite cause of death, Mehrer told Forum News Service.
The calves, of Holstein and Jersey breeds, appeared to be newborns and only approximately 1 to 2 weeks old. Authorities have discovered that the cattle owners began renting property in November 2020, Mehrer noted.
“We’ve got some idea as to who the owners of the cattle are; we’re just trying to verify that,” Mehrer said. "And our information is that they are no longer here within the state of North Dakota, so we’re investigating to determine their location in attempts to reach out to them to see if they can help shed some weight on the cause of death of the animals."
Currently, there are no other living animals on that property, Mehrer said.
When authorities arrived at the property in Lefor, the animals were spread out in different locations, Mehrer said, adding, “there were clusters that may have had two, three, four animals in one location.” Some calves were in the small barn on the property, while other calves were within “debris piles,” where the “animals were piled under,” he said.
The Stark County Sheriff’s Office put out a Facebook post Tuesday morning to help narrow down the search of the cattle owners.
“We have had a few tips today after our social media post that have been helpful (to) us determining that yes, in fact, these folks may have been the owners of the animals. Now, it’s just a matter of locating them and having a visit with them to see if they can shed some light on how they died,” Mehrer said. “There may be a perfect legitimate reason why. It can be any number of things from disease, sickness, cold weather elements.”
If authorities conclude that there was foul play in this incident, the Stark County Sheriff’s Office will work with prosecutors from the Stark County State’s Attorney Office and determine the appropriate charge based on what the evidence reveals, Mehrer said. At this time no charges are being filed.
“North Dakota, being a rural agricultural, farming and ranching state, we know that ranchers and farmers take great pride in how they care for their animals and we know that they take that very seriously. So when we, as a sheriff’s office, see an incident like that, we take it seriously as well and we just want to again, determine what happened here and understand all pieces of this,” Mehrer said.
On occasion, the Stark County Sheriff’s Office will encounter cases of dead animals. However, this high volume of dead, young calves is rare, Mehrer added.
If you have any information that will help the Stark County Sheriff’s Office with this incident, call 701-456-7610. To leave an anonymous tip, request to speak with Deputy Feist.