By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Brodhead man charged with animal neglect
Placeholder Image
MONROE - Charges filed last week in Green County Circuit Court allege a Brodhead man neglected four young calves this winter, ultimately leading to their deaths.

Chase Austin Klemm, 22, faces Class A misdemeanor charges of intentionally mistreating animals, negligently providing improper outdoor animal shelter from inclement weather and failing to provide proper food and drink to confined animals.

His initial appearance in court is April 9. Klemm has no prior criminal record in Wisconsin, only a handful of tickets for traffic and ordinance violations. None of the citations relate to animal care, but police reports indicate Klemm has been previously investigated for animal neglect.

According to court records:

Klemm lives in Brodhead but keeps cattle on his grandmother's land just north of Brodhead off County E near Condon Road. On Jan. 16, a neighbor reported to authorities that Klemm had abandoned a group of young calves on the land without food or water, and nobody had been out to check on them since it snowed several days earlier.

Green County deputies arrived at the property shortly after sunset that day and found four calves outdoors with no water or food and "very limited bedding." The temperatures that day and in the preceding days were well below freezing, with gusty winds and lows in the single digits.

Two of the calves were already dead and frozen stiff to the ground. They "appeared to have been in that state for a length of time," a deputy noted.

The two living calves had signs of frostbite and were so skinny their eyes and bodies had a "sucked-in appearance" that indicated they were dehydrated and had not been fed recently.

"These calves would not survive the night if left uncared for," the deputy wrote in his report.

The deputies tried without success to reach Klemm by phone and stopped by his home in Brodhead. A friend eventually got through to him. Klemm was out snowmobiling but eventually returned to the property to meet with deputies that night.

In the meantime, one of the deputies got a calf-feeding bottle and small bag of milk replacer at a local hardware store and returned to the farm, where he fed both calves about 8 pints of milk.

"I did this to provide them some sustainable energy to keep them alive while this investigation unfolded. I noted that both calves drank aggressively," the deputy wrote. He also noted that one of the calves had a very raspy cough during and after feeding, indicating "to me from my experience that it has the onset of pneumonia."

Once at the farm, Klemm told the deputies he purchased 11 calves a week or two before at Equity Co-op Livestock Sales in Monroe. Of the 11, he said he sold two to a friend, two died within a day of their arrival at the farm and three were larger in size so he put them in with his herd of beef cattle. He kept the remaining four separately at the farm. He estimated they were a month old or younger.

Klemm claimed he had been out to feed the four calves twice that day already and all four were alive at the time. The deputies pointed to holes in his claim: The two dead calves were already frozen stiff and appeared to have been that way for a while when deputies arrived, and the absence of tire or foot tracks in the snow indicated that no one had been on the land since it snowed several days earlier.

The deputies got a search warrant that night and seized all four calves. The two dead ones were taken in a squad car to the Brodhead Veterinary Medical Center for post-mortem examinations.

The other two were taken to a nearby farm for care under the approval of the Sheriff's Humane Officer, warmed under a heat lamp and blankets and fed every four to six hours. The farmer caring for the calves told a deputy when the calves first came in, their legs "were so cold and hard it felt like you were picking up an icicle."

One didn't survive the night. The other showed signs of getting stronger but died about a week and a half later.

Calves bought at sales need extra care to survive, the farmer caring for the seized calves told a deputy.

"The farmer indicated that sales barns do sell less than good condition animals, but they are bought at a very low cost," the deputy wrote, adding that she said a "good rule of thumb for dairy calves is that you need enough bedding to cover the hocks of the animal to provide the necessary warmth for them and they need enough shelter/enclosure to prevent weather from encroaching in on them." She said her own calves are housed outside but are also brought into the barn to maintain their health.

Dr. Jason Mertens at Brodhead Veterinary Medical Center also cautioned that calves purchased from sales barns "usually have a harder time surviving" because they are "not the highest quality of animal," according to deputy reports. Even with proper care, food and a warm location, surviving through the winter can be "an uphill battle."

Necropsies on the calves showed causes of death included hypothermia, pneumonia, swelling of the kidneys and "lack of receiving the necessary calories that milk supplement would have provided."

As part of the investigation, deputies also checked out Klemm's herd of 30-plus beef cattle on the same land and found them to be healthy and kept in adequate conditions.