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Mysterious Deaths of 135 Cows Probed

May 26, 1999|From Associated Press

TURLOCK, Calif. — State investigators are trying to figure out what's killing scores of cows at a family-owned dairy farm.

So far, 135 cows, more than a fifth of the herd, have died at the Hibma Dairy east of Turlock, the California Department of Food and Agriculture reported this week.

State scientists believe the deaths were caused by botulism toxin in the feed. However, tests remain inconclusive, officials said.

Investigators think the source of the toxin may be a dead animal in the hay.

All the milk from the Hibma Dairy will be processed at high heat into butter and powdered milk products, killing any botulism toxin that might be present, said Oscar Hidalgo, spokesman for the Department of Food and Agriculture.

Officials estimate the dead cows were worth $175,000.

"It's been such an emotional and financial impact on this family, it's unbelievable," said Joe Ramos, a field representative for Western United Dairymen, which represents 1,200 dairies.

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