Jury rules against Land O’Lakes Purina in poisoning case

Company to pay $750,000 in deaths of dairy cows

A jury has ordered Land O’Lakes Purina Feed to pay a pair of dairy farmers in Tillamook, Ore., $750,000 in damages for poisoning their dairy cows.

The trial, which wrapped up in December 2013 in Tillamook County Circuit Court, ended on a 10-2 verdict in favor of Neal and Nancy Kaste after food from Land O’Lakes Purina Feed killed 140 of their milking cows, Tillamook County Pioneer reported.

Despite the jury’s wishes to increase the damages, the judge capped the maximum award at $750,000 plus attorneys’ fees.

A salesman from Land O’Lakes, who was not trained in animal nutrition, adjusted the formula of feed sold to the Kastes, upping the amount of copper in the feed to six times the required level and taking out needed phosphorous. As a result, the excessive copper slowly poisoned the cattle, while the lack of phosphorous caused the cattle’s bodies to begin feeding on the phosphorus in their bones. 

“These cows were literally dying on their feet,” said Anne Foster, one of the Kaste’s attorneys. “Dairy farmers are close to their cows. The Kastes had names for all of them. They began watching their cows get sick and die before their eyes, and at first they didn’t know why.”

The Kastes began purchasing feed from Land O’Lakes in November 2005, unaware that it contained dangerously high levels of copper. Shortly after, their cows started to produce less milk and appeared sick. Over the next two years, the problems worsened until the end of November 2007, when many of the Kastes’ animals started dying.