Denise's dead calves
I checked O'Brien's website, and at this point it does not have posted the statement made to the Big Show as an explanation about the incident. The statement claimed that while the steers were owned by Harris and O'Brien, they were being housed at another farm. Because a bridge was out between Harris' farm and the farm where steers were at, he hired another person to watch and take care of the calves for him. Supposedly, this hired person did not do his job and was subsequently fired by Harris. O'Brien was not available to help during the cattle starvation due to being involved in farm crisis politics.
There is no excuse for these cattle dying and being starved. I don't care if the calves were two counties away; they are living creatures, as well as sizeable investments, and no bridge being out should keep anyone away from checking on them. Where was the feed for these calves? This incident took place over the summer - the time of the year when hay and pasture would have been available.
To be honest, this shows POOR leadership on Denise's part - instead of being at home helping take care of her own livestock (and way to generate income), she was off in Des Moines or wherever else trying to save everyone else's farms but her own.
Anyone who lets animals die on their watch should not be allowed near them again, and sure as hell should not be allowed to be in charge of Iowa's agriculture. It doesn't make any difference if Harris was the one named in the charge - he and O'Brien were partners in this operation.
In the response on The Big Show to the incident, O'Brien's campaign manager (a non-Iowan) tried to change the tune, saying that Bill Northey's $1 million investment in Brazillian farmland is MUCH worse than a few calves dying, and that Denise was not involved. Unfortunately, this is showing the bad side of Denise. Attacking a political opponent while offering a non-apology apology seems to be a common theme in the Democratic party these day.
Having livestock die on you is not unusual in farming - baby pigs get laid on, calves are stillborn, cows die of old age, etc. But, when you simply neglect your duties and your livestock starve and die, it cannot be construed as anything but intentional. Death by starvation takes a long time; it is cruel, and at anytime it can be stopped by providing water and feed. Apparantly, Harris and O'Brien didn't even lift a finger to go drive around the down bridge and check on their cattle for 4 months. What does this tell you?
Some might say that digging up a 19 year old incident is dirty, and what happened then should be left behind. I might agree if the O'Brien had gotten a speeding ticket in 1987. But having livestock die because of your intentional neglect and then running for Secretary of Agriculture is like someone running for State Auditor that has a larceny conviction on their record. It just isn't the thing to have in your background for the position you are trying to win.
O'Brien needs to drop out of this race immediately. If she is elected as Secretary of Agriculture with this in her background, she will damage Iowa agriculture's credibility. She will not be trusted when concerns about animal health and safety are discussed. She will not be able to build bridges to livestock producers. The spector of three dead calves will be hanging over her head at every meeting.