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Local rancher says his cattle are being chased to death

The farm off Old Hickory Road in Oxford looks peaceful. The cows crowd together in pastures that sweep down to Lake Varner in Covington. Yet, a closer look at some of the cattle reveals their ears have been chewed raw and cut off.

According to Keith Mitcham, owner of the Mitcham Cattle Company, he’s lost 21 cows since January and another seven or eight that have had their ears “just shredded.”

At first, Mitcham said, he thought coyotes or wild dogs were to blame. Whatever was doing it was “running [the cattle] to death,” he said. “They weren’t eating them. It was sport.”

There was evidence that the cattle had been chased into the barbed wire fences, shredding the cows’ legs and hides. The cows, he said, seem to have been run so hard they simply collapse and die. “One [cow] lived for three days before dying,” he said.

The seven or eight cows that survived had their ears chewed off, he said.

“If I was doing this as a hobby, it might be different,” he said. “For someone like me, trying to make a living, trying to support my family and employees, it’s hard,” he said.”

Each head of cattle killed was worth between $800 and $1,200 dollars, he said.

In early May, Mitcham said, he contacted the Newton County Animal Control and they set a trap to catch the animal or animals doing the damage. What they caught was a mastiff mixed breed dog, which was released to its owner. Later, he filed a complaint with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office.

Mitcham said he had filed an Open Record Request to see who owned the dog, but he had been advised not to talk to the owner himself. “I hope the owner will retrain the dog,” he said, adding it’s happened twice since May.

He said the biggest aggravation has been how long it’s been taking to deal with it. The Newton County Animal Control said the case is still open and under investigation.