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Cattle farmer sentenced to probation and fines for mistreatment of animals

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A Manitoba cattle farmer will spend years paying off his debt to society after animal protection officials found some of his herd either dead or injured and very malnourished.

Gregory Dyrda, president of Dyrda Stock Farms Ltd., was sentenced Wednesday to $31,500 in fines and costs after admitting to numerous charges under Manitoba's Animal Care Act, including that he failed to provide some of his herd with adequate food and water, medical attention and overall due regard.

Dyrda, 41, was charged after animal protection investigators were told a large number of crows and other "scavenger birds" were spotted at a property north of Teulon.

An inspection found 13 cattle carcasses and five other head in distress, provincial court Judge Mary Kate Harvie was told and shown through grim photos presented to her of what was found.

One black heifer was "essentially immobilized in mud," Crown attorney Vuk Mitrovic said. "It was twitching the muscles over the skin of the pelvis trying to dislodge a swarm of biting flies." It was humanely euthanized, Mitrovic said.

There was evidence of "long-term malnutrition" in some other cows in Dyrda's herd of between 90-100 cattle, said Mitrovic. "The death loss in this herd was significantly above what an average producer could expect," he said.

Dyrda told inspectors he'd checked the cattle that morning and they seemed fine. He later conceded he'd "fallen short" in caring for them but was motivated to move forward and do things right.

Months before events came to the attention of animal-welfare officials, a U.S. investor foreclosed on Dyrda's land and he moved his herd to property his relative owns.

"Severe financial stress," combined with weather woes and an injury Dyrda suffered in and ATV accident led to problems with caring for the animals properly, defence lawyer John Sinclair said.

Sinclair presented Harvie with a binder of photos showing positive improvements made to the operation since being charged. "I'd just like to be given a chance," Dyrda told her. "I basically took it upon myself to make all these changes," Dyrda said.

"I have to say the facts are disturbing — confirmed even more so by the photographic evidence," Harvie told him. "This was not something that happened overnight."

She added that improvements Dyrda has made demonstrates a "high level" of co-operation with authorities and a willingness to change. 

In addition to the fines, he'll also be on probation for three years. Conditions include allowing animal welfare officials to inspect his operation at any time over the life of the order. 

Dyrda must pay $200 a month towards the debt he now owes. At that rate, it will take more than 13 years until it's paid off in full. 

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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