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20 dead cattle found at Red Lake County farm; deputies investigate

After receiving numerous complaints about the condition of cattle on a farm in Red Lake County, authorities inspected the operation and removed about 20 dead animals that appeared to have died because of "a lack of food and just poor herd management," Sheriff Mitch Bernstein said Friday.

Deputies executed a search warrant Wednesday to check on about 100 beef cattle owned by Donald Schirrick, according to a sheriff's office new release.

About 20 carcasses, including calves and adults, were taken from Schirrick's farmstead in Wylie Township to a rendering plant in Long Prairie. Bernstein said the carcasses were in various stages of decay and guessed that some had died last fall.

"There were a few that were extremely decayed," he said. "There were some that were just skin and bones left."

Bernstein said Schirrick blamed the deaths on "an unusually harsh winter," but the sheriff pointed out that similar operations nearby did not have similar problems.

"We're not considering that a viable excuse," Bernstein said.

In Schirrick's defense, Bernstein said some of the cattle that died may have been very old.

There's no suggestion that the animals were killed by an infectious disease, the sheriff said.

A veterinarian examined the living cattle and determined that none needed to be seized. Bernstein said the remaining herd appeared to be in "pretty good shape." A feeding plan was established for those animals, which are being closely monitored, he said.

The state animal health board cited Schirrick for a carcass disposal violation. He may face criminal charges in this case that remains under investigation, the sheriff's office said.

Bernstein said Schirrick was warned about similar issues in February. At that time, Schirrick told deputies he was having equipment problems that were keeping him from feeding his animals and removing carcasses.

"It seemed like it straightened itself out for a while, then when the snow started melting, a lot of carcasses started showing up," Bernstein said.

A phone message seeking comment from Schirrick was not returned Friday.