Racine men plead not guilty in dead cattle case

Farm Forum

AUSTIN, Minn. — A father and son from Racine have pleaded not guilty in a case that began when 22 dairy cattle were found dead in a barn.

Donald Roy Sween, 75, and Michael Roy Sween, 52, were charged in Mower County District Court with one count each of mistreating animals-deprive of food/shelter, a misdemeanor. The men pleaded not guilty on March 31.

They’re due back in court Aug. 28.

The two were in a “very serious car accident,” said Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi. The father received a head trauma in the crash and was unable to care for the cows.

The son received severe physical injuries and also was unable to care for the cows. But he was aware of the problem and capable of reaching out to ask for help. He made “no attempt to call … and that’s why he was cited,” Amazi said.

“It’s a sad situation all the way around. These people hadn’t eaten when the deputy got there either, for a couple days,” she said.

The men have been offered social-service assistance, Amazi said.

Such cases, with many animals affected, often include extenuating factors, Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen said.

“There are a lot of factors that come into play. It can be economics; it can be physical or mental health. Sometimes it’s just plain neglect,” Nelsen said. “I’m not saying what it is in this case. But there are a lot of different factors that come in and, more often than not, it’s not just simple neglect.”

The dead cows were discovered the day of the Feb. 20 blizzard, Amazi said. Two cows were still alive and have been permanently placed at a different farm.