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Neighbor searching for answers after finding 11 dead cows

Elmer_Nearly a dozen cows were found dead this weekend on a ranch near Elmer -- that's just south of Altus. A neighbor says the water tank on the land is dry -- and says no one has been out to monitor the cows in weeks. The Jackson County sheriff and undersheriff were also out on the land to investigate for themselves Monday.

Sheriff Roger Levick said there was nothing criminal going on out there, just a stroke of bad luck for the landowner. But neighbor Fred Vanpelt told me he saw one of the cows dying slowly this weekend... That's when he said he jumped the fence and started helping as much as he could -- but he wasn't able to do much. "Oh yeah, I watched a couple of them go down," Vanpelt said. "One of them was down and we kind of, my wife got it back up, and it just wandered around, they were all hanging around that water thank."

Vanpelt says this is nothing short of animal cruelty. "We found a total of about 11 dead cows, and I went over and checked the water tank and it was bone dry," he said.

But Sheriff Levick said today in a phone interview that he didn't think it was neglect. He says they interviewed the landowner and Levick investigated the situation himself. He believes the cause of death was either bad feed -- like hay that was contaminated with pesticides; or perhaps Johnson grass -- which at certain times of the year becomes extremely toxic. "Well I don't agree with that," Vanpelt said. "And I'm sure the sheriff probably knows more than I do, but it's the wrong time of the year to have a Johnson grass problem. And other than that there's not a thing to eat on that place."

Vanpelt says he saw the cows foaming at the mouth, and his vet tells him that is a sign of water deprivation. "In fact, there's a green garden hose stretching about halfway across the property, to fill the tank, and it just wasn't keeping it full," he said.

Sheriff Levick says he has raised cattle his whole life, and has a degree in Animal Science -- so he says his expertise is enough to trust that there was no neglect on the part of that landowner, just an unfortunate accident. 

We weren't able to contact the landowner today. Vanpelt tells us he lives in Altus, but doesn't speak much English. Investigators did not confirm his name.

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