Lillian Basaraba: Fine and five-year limit on herd size for neglecting cattle

July 5, 2011, Vegreville

Lillian Basaraba pleaded guilty in Vegreville provincial court to allowing cattle in her care to be in distress. She was fined $500 and ordered to have no more than 60 cattle by October 31 of each year for the next five years.

This case began in 2009, when an Alberta SPCA peace officer saw a potential management issue with a herd of cattle at Basaraba’s property near Vegreville. The peace officer called in a veterinarian working for Alberta Farm Animal Care. (AFAC offers farmers two free visits as a service to give them management assistance and general veterinary advice.)

The first visit was made in July 2009. The veterinarian saw a herd of more than 200 cattle that were thin but not in distress. The grass on the property had been grazed down and couldn’t sustain the herd. Basaraba had plenty of hay in bales, and the veterinarian advised her to step up the feeding of the cattle and reduce the herd size to no more than 50. Improvements in herd condition were seen in September 2009.

After a new public complaint in February 2010, another peace officer and the veterinarian returned to the property. There were still too many cattle, which were in fair to poor condition, and several dead cattle were on the property. The water supply was also deficient—the farmer had to truck water in and the troughs were too high for the younger cattle to reach over the edge. The veterinarian repeated his advice to the farmer.

The peace officer monitored the farm and tried to work with the owner over the next month. When it was clear the veterinarian’s advice would not be followed, the Alberta SPCA executed a search warrant on April 14, 2010.

The veterinarian accompanying the peace officers during the search examined approximately 160 head of cattle on the property and judged them to be in poor condition. They all had lice and he saw a few cattle eating dirt, which is a sign of salt deficiency. No hay was visible, and when a peace officer started filling the water troughs, all the cattle came running. The veterinarian said the cattle were in distress and needed to be removed from the property. The peace officers also found 15 dead cattle on the property.

As part of the sentencing order, Basaraba is to supply the Alberta SPCA with a letter on March 30 and October 31 each year advising on the number of cattle she has. She is also to include the name of the veterinarian she is using.