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‘Hard thing to see’: rancher reacts to 200 dead cattle near Chaplin, Sask.

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Officials continue to investigate what could have killed 200 cattle on a pasture just outside the town of Chaplin. The discovery was made Friday, and as Christa Dao explains, for ranchers, it was like losing family – Jul 11, 2017

Officials continue to investigate a pasture south of Chaplin, Sask. where 200 cattle were found dead last week.

Preliminary test results point to dehydration and/or salt toxicity as being the cause of death. Further testing of both the deceased and surviving cattle are still being conducted.

READ MORE: Around 200 cattle found dead in southwest Sask.

On Monday, Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Better Althouse said the water source – a dugout — may have become unsuitable for livestock.

“Water sources can change over time. So just because a water source is good one year doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to be good next year,” Althouse said.

Cattle rancher Russell Coward had 75 cow-calf pairs at the Shamrock Grazing pasture. He’s unsure how many of his animals are among the dead.

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Coward described the scene as being “not a very nice sight” and his cattle as being in distress.

Animal Protection Services executive director Kaley Pugh said they haven’t ruled out the possibility of charges, but that will be determined as the investigation continues.

“It’s still too early to say who’s responsible,” Pugh said.

“We have had cases of deceased animals… but haven’t seen a case like there [where there are] large numbers of animals.”

Coward said he felt a range of emotions, but ultimately he doesn’t blame Shamrock Grazing.

“At first I was mad because I think it was an emotional event but since I learned what happened here… This was not a scenario where it was neglect or abuse, I don’t believe,” Coward said.

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Shamrock Grazing oversees about 1,500 head of cattle at the pasture. Thirty-three producers owned livestock on the 23,700 acreage land.

According to president Glenn Straub, it was his pasture manager who discovered the dead livestock.

“It was awful… I never want to see it again. I hope nobody has to see that,” Straub described.

The cattle had moved to the new field just a week before they died. Straub is waiting for the test results to come back but said it could be a number of things.

“We have no results… It could be a drought situation, it could be a plant species that grows when it dries.”

“We don’t know for sure what the original cause was,” he said.

Straub said the surviving cattle are in a fresh field with fresh water, and being closely monitored. Shamrock Grazing said they’re in close talks with the producers.

“Initially it was very hard. I had a tough time looking them in the face.”

The company is working with government officials in determining a place of burial and the process for cleanup.  Officials have pegged the loss at $300,000.

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