BURNET, Texas (KXAN) — The Burnet County Sheriff's Office seized nearly 80 head of cattle earlier this month on suspicion of cruelty to livestock and neglect after finding the cattle to be malnourished and emaciated, according to Sheriff Calvin Boyd.
"They were in really bad shape. We lost multiple cattle," Boyd said.
Boyd confirmed to KXAN the owner of the cattle is Billy Wall, the Burnet County Precinct 3 Commissioner.
According to the Burnet County website, Wall has a degree in agriculture and has been the Precinct 3 Commissioner since January 2017.
Boyd said his office opened a criminal investigation related to the condition of Wall's cattle.
KXAN reached out to Wall multiple times to request a comment and learn more about the circumstances surrounding the investigation. We will update this story when we receive a response from him.
Boyd said his office hasn't necessarily seen an increase in livestock neglect or other issues with nutrition due to the current drought conditions.
"We don't typically just remove livestock like this," Boyd said. "All of our farmers have dealt with the increased costs and challenges with caring for livestock during the drought."
KXAN saw the cattle the sheriff's office removed. After eight days in BCSO's custody with plenty of food and water, some of the cattle's bones were still visible through their skin, and they still appeared to be significantly underweight.
Wall was scheduled to appear in front of a civil court judge last Friday to determine whether he could take back possession of his cattle, however, the hearing was rescheduled due to a change of venue, according to Boyd.
Boyd said this is an ongoing criminal investigation. No charges have been filed against Wall at this time.
The offense of Cruelty to Livestock is a class A misdemeanor. A conviction carries a fine of no more than $4,000 and/or up to one year in county jail, according to the Texas Penal Code.
Texas Animal Health Commission
KXAN reached out to the Texas Animal Health Commission to learn more about how droughts may affect livestock and what resources are available to ranchers experiencing difficulties providing proper care for their animals.
"Drought conditions can cause feed management issues, scarcity of water resources and subsequent heat exhaustion for animals. Cattle owners can face the challenges of resource scarcity which, in turn, may lead to increased costs of doing business," the commission stated.
The commission also told KXAN cattle owners have several resources for assistance and relief in drought disasters.
According to the Commission, the Texas Department of Agriculture as well as the USDA's Farm Service Agency, or FSA, provides multiple resources. Agricultural producers can use the Hay Hotline to find forage and hay supplies for sale.
"The option and reality of selling cattle that are unable to be cared for is also available," the commission said.