Boy's Herd of Cattle Suspiciously Dies

By Frank Heinz
|  Wednesday, Jun 2, 2010  |  Updated 9:18 AM CDT
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Boy's Herd of Cattle Suspiciously Dies

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The Palo Pinto Sheriff's Department is looking into the suspicious deaths of 15 cows that belonged to 11-year-old Jake Wilfong.

Jake,  who had been growing his herd for the last five years, was devastated to learn that three-fourths of his herd had died, seemingly overnight.

The Wilfong's had been out to the family's ranch just last week to check on the herd, who were all doing fine with plenty of food and water available.

A family friend who was visiting the land on Tuesday found the dead cattle and notified the family.

When the Wilfongs arrived, they said one of the cows was suffering through its final minutes of life. "She kind of looked like she was having seizures, on her side, kicking, flailing, moaning, it was a hard thing to watch -- especially thinking all 14 or 15 of them had done that before they died," said Jodie Wilfong, Jake's mother.

Sheriff Ira Mercer said the cows were found on a piece of land near a water source. Investigators do not yet know how the cows died, but the water will be tested for poisons since the animals were found nearby.

The family said they had no idea what could have happened to the boy's herd, but are trying to rule out foul play.

"We're trying not to speculate -- just waiting for the test results. We hope that this was something that just naturally happened," said Jodie.

Despite the setback, Jake said he will rebuild his herd -- some of which were valued at more than $10,000 per head.

"This was how he hopefully was going to make his living in the future. You know, you're dealt devastating blows in your lifetime and you have to overcome them whether you learn it at 30 or at 11, like he had to. That's just something we have to do. We'll make do with what we have and move on," said Jodie.

Five of the herd's 20 head of cattle are still alive.  Results on water and soil tests may not be available for up to a week.

The ranch, located west of Fort Worth between the town of Palo Pinto and Strawn, has been in the Wilfong family for about 150 years.

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