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Farm under investigation

January 04, 2007|by TARA REILLY

WILLIAMSPORT - The Humane Society of Washington County is investigating a complaint about the farm where a financially burdened farmer cares for 110 animals, including two cloned cows.

Humane Society Executive Director Paul Miller on Wednesday confirmed the investigation but would not provide details, saying it was an "open investigation."

Greg Wiles keeps the cows on his father's 200-acre farm on Big Bend Way near Williamsport. Wiles faces an eviction hearing next week in Washington County Circuit Court for allegedly failing to pay rent on the property.

He declined Wednesday to comment on the investigation.

Miller said he didn't know when the complaint was received or when it might be concluded. It is typical for the Humane Society to investigate any complaint it receives, he said.


A field veterinarian with the Maryland Department of Agriculture visited the farm and compiled a report for the Humane Society, said Sue duPont, public information officer for the state Department of Agriculture.

The department can't make the report public because it's part of the investigation, she said.

In addition to the investigation and pending eviction, Wiles faces another problem.

The Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association suspended his membership Dec. 28 because his cows weren't producing enough milk, said Amber DuMont, the cooperative's manager of communications.

"He's not even shipping enough milk in his bulk tank that we can take a sample," DuMont said.

Farmers supply the Maryland & Virginia cooperative with milk. The cooperative then markets the milk. It has 1,500 dairy farmers throughout the mid-Atlantic and southeast regions, according to its Web site. Maryland & Virginia also owns and operates milk processing and manufacturing plants.

DuMont said Wiles was shipping 600 to 800 pounds of milk every other day, despite having a bulk tank that holds a little more than 23,000 pounds of milk.

"There's barely enough to cover the bottom of it," DuMont said.

The cooperative measures what is shipped in pounds.

DuMont said Wiles has less than 30 milking cows in his herd.

Wiles disputed that claim Wednesday, saying he has 52 milking cows. He said the cooperative is trying to distance itself from him over his two cloned cows.

He said he thought the cooperative didn't want to become involved in a debate over whether food and milk from cloned animals is safe to eat, so they suspended his membership.

DuMont said that wasn't the case.

"The fact that Mr. Wiles has them is not an element of this decision at all," DuMont said.

DuMont said many factors can cause a drop in milk production, including the type of feed the cows are given and stages in lactation.

Wiles acknowledged that his cows' milk production has dropped. He said it declined because financial issues have caused him to sell some cows. He used to milk 110 cows, but he has 52 left, he said.

He said he feeds his cows grain and hay and claims they're eating adequately. But now that he's suspended from the cooperative, he said he won't be able to feed them much longer.

"They're getting enough food, but I can't afford to feed them without any profit from them," Wiles said.

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