Ranches in Nebraska and Idaho are seeking $376,000 in a lawsuit that accuses an Oregon cattle company of negligence that resulted in deformed calves.
The complaint claims that Riverside Ranch Cattle and affiliated bovine reproduction companies in Prairie City, Ore., sold cows that had consumed toxic lupine plants while pregnant.
Those “recipient cows” had been implanted with embryos from Hoffman Ranch in Nebraska and Colyer Herefords in Idaho, which later bought the pregnant animals from the Oregon company.
The arrangement was part of an “embryo transfer,” which allows cows with elite genetics to more quickly produce multiple offspring.
Under this process, hormone treatments cause a cow’s ovaries to generate several eggs at the same time, which are then fertilized with sperm. The resulting embryos are then “flushed” from its uterus and implanted into other cows that serve as surrogate mothers.
In this case, the plaintiffs allege that recipient cows were exposed to lupine during a critical point of their pregnancy while under the care of Riverside Ranch Cattle in the spring or summer of 2015 and 2016.
Alkaloids in lupine plants caused 23 of the 40 recipient cows bought by Hoffman Ranch to give birth to calves with defects such as crooked legs and malformed spines in 2015, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that lupine consumption similarly caused “crooked calf syndrome” in 45 of the 64 recipient cows bought by Colyer Herefords in 2016.
The plaintiffs claim that 22 calves died or had to be euthanized due to the syndrome.
Riverside Ranch Cattle was negligent in failing to prevent the recipient cows from eating the lupines, resulting in a breach of contract, the complaint said.
Hoffman Ranch seeks $133,800 and Colyer Herefords seeks $242,600 in damages for the lost value of deformed cows as well as reimbursement of fees for embryo transfer, pasture access and transportation. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Oregon’s Pendleton division.
Capital Press was unable to reach the defendants for comment.