FOR THE RECORD: This story incorrectly stated that Richard Evans, owner of the Double V ranch near Fort Sumner, had been charged with 25 felony counts of animal cruelty. The charges actually are misdemeanors. That story also incorrectly identified District Attorney Tim Rose of the 10th Judicial District.
Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal
An estimated 1,000 cattle on a drought-stricken ranch near Fort Sumner have become so emaciated that their owner has been charged with 25 counts of cruelty to animals and state officials are considering seizing the herd. New Mexico Livestock Board officials served a search warrant at the sprawling Double V Ranch on May 17 and found at least 25 dead animals and many others at risk of starving to death, said Tim Rose, district attorney for the 10th Judicial District in Tucumcari.
If a judge orders the seizure, the case would mark the first large herd seized by the Livestock Board, officials said.Officials do not have a precise estimate of how many cattle range on the 180,000-acre Double V Ranch, located about 25 miles south of Fort Sumner. Ray Baca, interim director of the New Mexico Livestock Board, estimates the size of the herd at about 1,000 animals.
Double V Ranch is owned by Richard Evans, who resides at the ranch, Rose said. Evans also owns land in Texas and South America, he said.Rose said he is working with Livestock Board officials to work out a plan for caring for the cattle if they are seizedEvans was charged Thursday with 25 counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals – one count for each of at least 25 dead cattle that Livestock Board officials observed at the ranch.
“It is going to be a major deal,” Baca said of the seizure. “No matter what, it’s going to be a major impact on us as a state agency because we’re not actually funded for this kind of a major crisis.”
Livestock officials report “the cattle are in extremely poor condition and starving,” Rose said. “Due to the drought conditions there is basically no pasture grass there.”
“As for reasons why Mr. Evans wouldn’t feed the cattle appropriately, I’m not sure,” Rose said. “There really is no reason to let a cow starve to death. People have to make a decision to feed them or sell them.”
The Journal was not able to reach Evans for comment this week. Phone messages left with a Roswell attorney representing Evans were not returned Thursday.
An anonymous report to the state Livestock Board alerted officials to the situation at the ranch, Rose said.
Livestock Board inspector Barry Allen wrote in an affidavit for the search warrant that he observed 25 to 30 dead cattle at two locations on the ranch from public roadways during a May 14 inspection.
About eight carcasses appeared to have been deteriorating about six months, “indicative of the malnourishment being an ongoing issue on this ranch,” Allen wrote.
Live cattle at the ranch were in “poor condition” and nursing calves appeared stunted, he wrote. Allen said he asked Evans about the condition of his cattle.”Mr. Evans indicated he was aware of the situation and reasoned that dry weather, and drought conditions, along with his wife’s recent passing were all contributing factors to his inability to properly provide nourishment to livestock,” Allen wrote.
Evans said he was not aware of dead cattle on his ranch, Allen wrote.Evans said he put out liquid feed for supplement and cake-protein blocks for his cattle. Rose said the feed supplements are not intended as a substitute for roughage such as grass or hay.
“Mr. Evans explained that his neighbors are feeding but are losing money and stressed he did not want to lose a return on his investment,” Allen wrote.
Rose said he believes the state Livestock Board needs to promptly take possession of the cattle to improve their chances of survival.
Officials say that seizure of the animals would place a burden on the resources of the Livestock Board, which had 75 employees and a budget of $5.6 million in fiscal year 2013.
“With a ranch that size, with that many cattle and the condition that they are in, it would be just a huge undertaking,” Rose said.
A seizure warrant would require the approval of a 10th Judicial District judge, who would oversee the final disposition of the cattle.
“It would be quite expensive and time consuming,” Rose said. “There are obviously issues of funding and manpower to make that happen. But I’m pushing for that to take place as soon as possible.”
Baca estimates that feeding the cattle would cost his agency $3 to $5 a day per head. In addition, the agency would need to provide veterinary care and other services to maintain the herd.
Officials also need to decide whether they would maintain the herd at the ranch or move them to another location, he said.
“Once we take possession, we’ve got to feed them, we’ve got to take care of them, we’ve got to doctor them,” Baca said. “They’re ours until the court deems otherwise.”