Rancher ordered to pay for drowned cattle in his care

A Saskatchewan farmer has been ordered to pay $28,600 after 27 head of cattle he was looking after fell through ice and drowned four years ago. | File photo

A Saskatchewan farmer has been ordered to pay $28,600 after 27 head of cattle he was looking after fell through ice and drowned four years ago.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Meghan McCreary ruled in April that Darren Shindle of the Dysart area failed to provide adequate care to the animals he was leasing from Lyle Davis.

The case centred on an agreement drawn up at Davis’s kitchen table in October 2013 when he learned he required a hip replacement and wouldn’t be able to look after his cattle for awhile.

He leased 89 head to Shindle at a cost of $6,853, or about seven percent of the agreed value of the herd at the time. Shindle was to retain ownership of all calves born during the lease and Davis retained ownership of the cows.

The two agreed that the loss of a cow, for whatever reason, would be acceptable and that was included in the agreement.

The 89 head were delivered to the Shindle farm in December 2013 and the agreement was to last until November 2014.

Although Davis contacted Shindle several times through the summer of 2014 to see if he wanted to return half of the cattle, that didn’t happen.

In the fall of that year, Davis telephoned Shindle and asked him to return all the cows.

Shindle returned 10 on Oct. 16, another 48 head several days later and four more on Oct. 30, for a total of 62.

“The defendants did not report to the plaintiffs that their cows had died until the end of October 2014,” said McCreary’s written judgment.

Davis told the court that when he first heard the cows had died, he thought they had been sold instead. He didn’t see the carcasses until that fall and couldn’t identify them from the ear tags.

McCreary said cows require daily attention in the winter.

“The plaintiffs (Davis) argue that 27 animals, which was 30 percent of the herd, would not have perished in such large numbers unless they were grossly neglected,” said the judgment.

“The plaintiffs further contend that if the defendants had taken proper care and attention, they would have advised the plaintiffs immediately upon the death of the cows and would have retained a veterinarian to confirm the cause of the deaths, which they did not do.”

Shindle submitted evidence that other farmers have had cattle fall through ice and died. However, that evidence also suggested that they rarely die in such large numbers, the judgment said.

McCreary said Shindle did not provide evidence that steps had been taken to care for the cows daily, that he didn’t prevent them from getting on to the ice and that he did not actually know when the cows had died.

“By failing to monitor the cows and care for them on a daily basis, I find that the defendants did not take reasonable care to prevent the cows from wandering unmonitored in order to avoid the mass deaths.”

She also said the agreement that provided for the possible death of “a” cow meant exactly that.

She found that the defendants breached the agreement and are responsible for the loss of 26 cows, as one death would have been allowed, and ruled Davis is entitled to $28,600 plus pre-judgment interest from the date of loss, or Nov. 30, 2014.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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