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Fate of seized cattle not clear

It’s unclear if a herd of cattle seized from a Scappoose rancher because of allegations of animal neglect have been sold or simply moved.

The approximately 168 animals, mostly cow and calf pairs, had been held at a pasture outside St. Helens, next door to fertilizer manufacturer Dyno Nobel, since late July. The herd was provided with water and hay, but the pasture grass was closely cropped before the cows had been there a month and there was no shelter available.

Now the field is empty.

Columbia County commissioners said the cattle were moved the weekend before Thanksgiving to “a working ranch where they can be accommodated during the winter,” according to a Nov. 21 media release.

“The Oregon Humane Society continues to assist in monitoring the health and welfare of the cattle,” the statement continued. “As this is related to an ongoing criminal matter, that is all we have at this time.”

The herd’s original owner, William Holdner, is charged with 95 counts of animal neglect, but has been in contact with the county since the animals were first seized July 26, claiming that many of the cow and calf pairs had already been sold to Nevis Company, a California-based company with a ranch in Corbett.

On Nov. 20, a day before the county’s statement was released, County Commissioner Tony Hyde told the Spotlight the cattle had been sold to Nevis Company, but he deferred to Commissioner Henry Heimuller regarding the details.

When asked, Heimuller said he could not confirm or deny Hyde’s statement because of ongoing litigation.

Holdner, who also runs an accounting firm in Portland, said he hasn’t heard anything about where the cattle might currently be located, but he believes the county plans to auction off the cows and calves.

“If that’s true, I don’t know anything about it,” Heimuller said.

Ever since the animals were seized, Holdner has countered the county’s accusations of animal neglect with his own claims the cattle’s condition has worsened since the county took charge of the herd.

“We think they made a side deal,” he said. “I think the cattle were just looking too bad.”

The county partnered with the Oregon Humane Society to feed, house and provide medical attention to the herd. County and OHS officials estimated the cost of care between $500 to $900 a day.

Heimuller has repeatedly said the cost of caring for the animals doesn’t matter and that the wrong thing would have been to let them suffer under Holdner’s care.

Photographs taken in October show a group of skinny cows standing close under trees at one end of the pasture.