A week after authorities found more than 200 dead cattle, some piled in heaps of manure, and a dead horse on a Fillmore County farm, an Exeter cattleman was arrested and charged with 29 felonies.
Aaron Ogren, 30, was taken to the Fillmore County Jail on an arrest warrant including one count of theft by unlawful taking, two counts of prohibited sale of livestock and 26 counts of cruelty to animals, the Nebraska State Patrol said in a news release.
In an affidavit for Ogren's arrest, Nebraska Brand Committee Criminal Investigator Christian Fell said he went to Ogren's family-owned farm on 1817 Road C, northwest of Exeter, to talk to him about cattle in his care that belonged to Colorado owners.
The Colorado ranchers told Fell they wanted their cattle returned, but Ogren told Fell many of them had died because of harsh winter conditions, the investigator wrote.
As Ogren walked Fell through his pens, the investigator reported seeing a pile of dead calves and learned others had been buried elsewhere. Still others were stacked up awaiting burial.
In the pens, live cattle stood knee-high in a mixture of mud, manure and urine, and the carcasses of cattle ranging from newborns to fully grown livestock were stacked in manure mounds, Fell said.
"Cattle calving in those conditions can create serious illness and even death to the calves because the calves are unable to get any good footing to stand up, are fighting bacteria from the manure created because the cow teats are in the manure/mud most of the time, (and) the calves never have a chance to dry off and warm up," Fell said.
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Concerned that the feedlot had not been cleaned in over a year, Fell, Nebraska Brand Committee staff, the Nebraska State Patrol and the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office served a search warrant there and seized the herd.
A veterinarian assessing the 263 seized cattle noted that 172 were in questionable-to-poor condition, including 22 who were so emaciated their bones were sharp to touch and easily visible.
Those cattle were taken to a nearby farm for care.
Investigators also recovered the dead cattle and found a haltered horse that had died after getting stuck in a muddy hole, Fell said.
Specifically, Ogren was charged with animal cruelty in the deaths of three calves examined by a veterinarian and believed to have died because of the conditions they were born into.
The other 23 cruelty charges concern the dead horse and the malnourishment of the 22 extremely thin cattle.
Ogren is also accused of illegally giving some of the cattle owned by the Colorado rancher to another area farmer.
He appeared in Fillmore County Court on Wednesday and was apprised of the charges against him.
Ogren had not yet hired an attorney Wednesday, and he remained in jail on $300,000 bond.
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