Grant Edwardson of Grand Island was charged with 27 counts of cruelty to livestock after Hall County deputies say they found deceased and malnourished livestock following a March 5 barn fire at 4078 W. Wildwood Drive.
A veterinarian allegedly found 21 dead bovine animals and six living bovine. The vet, Dr. Kendal Smith-Gomez of Hastings, reported 10 cows and seven calves dead in a row on top of one another. The animals had been placed in this arrangement after death, according to the court affidavit.
At a Wednesday arraignment, Edwardson, 41, was charged with 24 counts of abandonment or cruel neglect of livestock leading to injury or death, which is a Class IV felony. He was also charged with three misdemeanor offenses of abandoning or cruelly neglecting livestock.
Hall County Deputy Melissa Kier was one of the officers who responded to the fire. According to the affidavit, Kier observed a row of dead cattle in a pen, not directly next to the barn, with drag marks showing the cattle had been moved to that location. In a pen next to the barn, Kier observed a cattle shelter with dead cattle in three stalls and another dead cow in the middle of the pen under a wooden panel.
The cattle appeared to have been dead for some time. Animal Control Officers Morgan Mohr and Jessie Romero located several other dead cattle covered by pallets and plywood in addition to those observed by Kier.
There were also cattle inside the burning barn. Smith-Gomez was summoned to examine the living and dead cattle.
In a statement to animal control officers, Edwardson said the cows all died during the winter and, because of a dispute with the Darling rendering plant, he could not have the cows picked up.
Mohr spoke with the rendering plant and learned the company had not done any business with Edwardson since 2018, the affidavit said.
In a dry lot north of the burned barn, Smith-Gomez examined four dead bovine animals (one mature and three calves).
“The mature cow’s dental condition indicated she would not have died due to winter conditions if adequate feed were available to her; she should have also maintained adequate body condition to raise a nursing calf with adequate feed and mineral supplementation,” the affidavit says.
Smith-Gomez noted a two-acre paddock that had minimal grass and feedstuffs.
“The doctor estimated 90% of the paddock’s grass was eaten down to nothing and in many places, the dirt had been licked dry,” the affidavit says.
In examining the six live cattle, Smith-Gomez found a calf, less than 6 months old, in respiratory distress.
Hall County Judge Arthur Wetzel set bond at $5,000. Edwardson was released after paying 10% of that amount. His preliminary hearing is set for 9 a.m. June 22.