Authorities investigate alleged abuse at Colorado dairy

By Associated Press and Staff Reports

DENVER — Authorities are investigating whether any of the workers at a Colorado dairy farm filmed kicking and hitting cows should be charged with a crime. But they could have a hard time finding the workers and prosecuting them if they do.

The undercover video, released June 11 by the Los Angeles-based group Mercy for Animals, shows clips of workers at Cactus Acres Holsteins in Fort Morgan, Colorado, individually kicking and jabbing the cows with metal poles, sometimes in their udders, pulling their tails and slamming milking apparatus into them as the cows are lined up in stalls to be milked.

The video was made from about 300 hours of footage filmed by a Mercy for Animals employee, identified as Jessica Buck by farm owner Marie Goedert. Buck, who worked at the farm, filmed from March through May 20 and then turned the footage over to the Morgan County Sheriff’s office.

Investigators have identified about a dozen workers — people shown in the video and identified by the undercover worker — accused of abuse, Sheriff Jim Crone said June 12.

Five fired

The owners of the dairy, who have fired five workers and ordered additional training for seven others, have been providing information about the workers. Those who were fired may be long gone, Crone said.

The farm, which has about 2,500 cows, is owned by Jim and Marie Goedert and a member of the Kansas City-based cooperative Dairy Farmers of America.

Third party audit

The farm has been placed on probationary status following an audit by an outside group, said Dairy Farmers of America spokeswoman Monica Massey.

The audit, conducted by Validus, is part of the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program’s Willful Animal Mistreatment Protocol. The protocol sets forth a process of investigation, probation, if warranted, and corrective action.

Based on the results of the investigative audit, Cactus-Acres Holsteins has been placed on probationary status pending the successful completion of a corrective action plan.

Undercover strategies

Crone, along with Dairy Farmers of America, question why Mercy for Animals waited so long to report the abuse, which they say allowed the practices to continue and could make it harder to press possible charges.

Mercy for Animals says it has to document abuse long enough to know the extent of abuse at an operation.

The Goederts, who milk approximately 2,500 cows and employ more than 30 employees, were shocked to learn of the allegations levied against them, particularly because they use a video monitoring system on their dairy and had already terminated several employees over concerns about poor performance and animal mistreatment in the preceding weeks.

“We couldn’t believe that someone who we hired as a milker and trusted to do the right thing and care for our cows would act so contrary to our values,” said Marie Goedert of the undercover activist, Jessica Buck. “Why not bring these concerns to our attention immediately?”

“We are devastated that these acts were committed by employees on our dairy,” Goedert said. “We acknowledge that there were mistakes made and take full responsibility for those.”

DFA is planning to work with the Goederts to press charges.

“It is extremely frustrating and ineffective to simply record activities that go against industry and farm practices and protocols, rather than report it immediately,” said Massey.

“For groups that claim to have animal care and welfare as their sole mission, they seem to spend a lot of time simply observing what they think is the inhumane treatment of animals instead of stopping it. Abuse should be reported, not recorded.”

Animal behavior expert Temple Grandin, a Colorado State University professor, said the video shows abuse, not just rough handling.

“It was definitely not acceptable what they were doing,” she said.

DFA is encouraging anyone who witnesses animal abuse to report it immediately and has begun a social media campaign utilizing #ReportNotRecord.

(©2015 Farm and Dairy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.)


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