Mysterious Cattle Deaths in Orange County

By: Lisa Ferrari
By: Lisa Ferrari

September 19, 2005

More than fifty cows have died on a farm in orange county and the cause of their deaths remains a mystery. Lab tests have ruled out any infectious or contagious diseases, so the good news is there's no danger to people or to other animals. Unfortunately, officials are still not sure what killed the cows.

“I've never heard of an event that severe that killed that many. We've all experienced a time when we lose one or two [but] 57 is unheard of,” said Monk Sanborn, an Orange County farmer

160 cows were grazing on a pasture along Route 20 in Orange and earlier this month, more than 30 percent of those cows turned up dead. What’s more, many expecting cows aborted their calves.

“There's a lot of speculation as to what the cause could be. It’s going to be determined by testing, hopefully, and there's some feeling we'll never know for sure, said Sanborn.

The field where the cows grazed had been fertilized two weeks earlier. But the lab report came back inconclusive, pointing not to the fertilizer but to some sort of a toxin, possibly a poisonous plant.

“Of course, they were without water for a little while too, and I’m sure that added to the problem,” said Sanborn.

Even though farmers in Orange may never know exactly what caused so many cows to die, there is some consolation knowing it won't affect their farms. Lab tests have ruled out any infectious or contagious diseases.

“If it was something contagious, I would worry but this is not a contagious disease it's a one field outbreak of whatever it was,” said Sanborn.

Veterinarians are still trying to figure out what caused the deaths of so many cows and more lab results are expected back by the end of the week. No more cows have died since last Friday, and some have even given birth to healthy baby calves this past week.

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