Ag Briefs: Authorities investigate cases of dead, mutilated cows

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs


Diemel brothers' killer sentenced to life in prison

Garland Nelson was sentenced Monday to 30 years in federal prison on mail fraud and firearm possession convictions, in the case related to the deaths of two Shawano County brothers.

WLUK reported that Nelson was also placed on supervised release for three years after the sentences are done. In reality, that doesn’t matter as the 30-year federal term will run consecutively to the back-to-back state sentences of life in prison for the 2019 murders of Nick and Justin Diemel.

The brothers' father reported them missing July 21, 2019, after they didn’t return from a visit to Nelson’s farm, where they had gone to collect a $250,000 debt. According to court records, Nelson shot the brothers and put their bodies in 55 gal. barrels and burned them.


Authorities investigate cases of dead, mutilated cows

Authorities say six cows were found dead and mutilated on different properties along a Texas highway spanning three counties. Madison County Sheriff’s Office officials said Wednesday, April 19 in a Facebook post that they received reports on five mutilations in Madison, Brazos and Robertson counties while investigating the death of a 6-year-old cow, Associated Press reported.

The cow had a “straight, clean cut, with apparent precision” removing the hide around the animal’s mouth on one side. The tongue was completely removed. Madison County officials say each cow was mutilated in a different location and similar cases have been reported across the U.S. They say efforts to coordinate between agencies were underway.


Texas dairy explosion that killed over 18,000 cattle ruled an accident

An explosion and fire at Southfork Dairy Farm near Dimmit, Texas, on April 10, that killed 18,000 cows and critically injured one employee has been ruled an accident. The Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office stated that the fire was the result of a mechanical equipment failure.

The fire is determined to have originated on the north end of the building and spread to the holding pen where a large number of cows were waiting to go into the milking barn. The explosion is the deadliest barn fire for cattle recorded since the Animal Welfare Institute began tracking the fires in 2013, High Plains Journal reported.


US to meat companies: Make sure no children hired

The Biden administration is urging U.S. meat processors to make sure children aren’t being illegally hired to perform dangerous jobs at their plants.

The call comes after an investigation found more than 100 kids working overnight for a company that cleans slaughterhouses, handling dangerous equipment like skull splitters and razor- sharp bone saws, Associated Press reported.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack sent a letter to the 18 largest meat and poultry producers urging them to examine the hiring practices at their companies and suppliers.


Spotty, cold weather put damper on spring planting

Widespread precipitation and colder than normal temperatures limited fieldwork for Wisconsin farmer, providing just 2 days of suitable weather for the week ending April 23, 2023, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Despite reports of snow and flooding in some northern areas, many producers were able to haul manure as conditions allowed. Spring tillage was reported as 13 percent complete, 6 days ahead of last year but 3 days behind the 5-year average.


Meat processor grant program popular

The Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has announced that 70 applications were submitted for the 2023 Meat Processor Infrastructure Grant Program. These grants aim to grow and improve the long-term viability of the Wisconsin’s meat and livestock industries. Submitted applications totaled more than $2.8 million in requested funding from the state and over $38 million of total investment by the industry.

A total of $200,000 was available for this year’s Meat Processor Infrastructure Grant Program with a maximum grant of $50,000 allowed for each project.


Public invited to UW Family Gardening Day

Area gardeners and gardeners-to-be are invited to gather ideas for their plots at the UW Family Gardening Day on Saturday, May 6, on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. The free, family-friendly event runs from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Activities will be hosted at Allen Centennial GardenD.C. Smith Instructional GreenhouseSteenbock Memorial Library and the Wisconsin Energy Institute (WEI).

Each location will host a variety of displays and demonstrations, including hands-on activities with seeds, plants and soil. Attendees can ask about the specific insects and diseases affecting their plants, plus discover books for all ages about gardening, plants, soil, water and more. There will be plants and seeds available for people to take home for their own gardens (while supplies last).

For more information, visit


WPVGA lobbying for funds for center

The Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association is lobbying state lawmakers to earmark funding in the establishment of a Food and Farm Exploration Center. The proposed center aims to provide a platform for sustainable agriculture education, research, and outreach to support the state's farming communities.

According to WPVGA, the center would offer programs and resources for farmers, educators, and students to learn about sustainable agriculture practices and techniques. It will also serve as a hub for research on crop and soil science, food safety, and other related areas.


JBS to settle over US beef price-fixing claims

Brazilian meat giant JBS has agreed to pay $25m to commercial beef buyers after being accused of keeping prices artificially high. 

The plaintiffs argued JBS was part of “a conspiracy to artificially constrict the supply of beef products in the domestic market of the United States”.

On Friday (14 April), the Minnesota federal court disclosed the proposed settlement, which included the allegations that defendants, including JBS, Cargill and Tyson Foods, agreed to reduce live cattle purchasing and slaughter volumes to keep prices high, according to Just Food.  


$1.6M in grants awarded in the Commercial Nitrogen Optimization pilot program

Gov. Tony Evers and WI DATCP announced that 20 recipients were awarded grant funding for the 2023 Commercial Nitrogen Optimization Pilot Program (NOPP). These grants aim to refine and enhance the understanding of new methods that optimize commercial nitrogen applied to agricultural fields, helping to protect vital soil and water resources.

DATCP received 31 funding applications totaling more than $2.1 million in requests. Projects, totaling nearly $1.6 million, were funded. The largest grant of $246,926 was awarded to Dodge Co. Farmers for Healthy Soil & Water, involving 13 producers.


Campbellsport FFA Alumni holds tractor raffle

The Campbellsport FFA Alumni is holding a raffle to raise funds for support of the Campbellsport High School agriculture program. Tickets can be purchased for a 1966 International 504 gas tractor with a 3-point, original top link and power steering or $4000. Other cash prizes will be awarded. Drawing for the tractor will be held on Oct. 7, 2023 at the annual Campbellsport FFA Crop Show.

The tractor was donated by the Millin Family. Tickets are $5.00 each or 5 for $20. Secure tickets from Chris Hinn at 920-922-5978. Only 5000 tickets are available. Proceeds help with travel expenses, educational seminars and facility support for the Campbellsport FFA and Ag Program.


Dairy producers oppose one-sided pricing reform

While most people in the dairy industry agree Federal Milk Marketing Orders need an overhaul, dairy farmers oppose processors’ attempt to address just one piece of the pricing formula — manufacturing or “make” allowances.

Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and International Dairy Foods Association have each petitioned USDA for a hearing to update make allowances in marketing orders, citing substantial increases in manufacturing costs since make allowances were last updated in 2008, The Capital Press reported.

National Milk Producers Federation and American Farm Bureau Federation agree make allowances need to be updated but oppose limiting the scope of a hearing to make allowances without addressing broader reform.