The Sumter County Farmer’s Market is located in Webster, Florida. Their “claim to fame” seems to be that they are the oldest and largest flea market in Florida and are apparently listed under the “Top Ten Tourist Attractions” in Florida.
In addition to the flea market, they hold a weekly cattle auction. Our investigators visited the auction on December 17, 2013. The property has an extensive covered pen area with several catwalks overlooking the pens. Although there is a water system in place, investigators noted that not all animals had access. None of the animals had food. While fans were installed, none were running at the time of our visit.
Investigators witnessed the handling behind the auction ring which was quite rough and at times brutal. Auction personnel used electric prods, sticks and paddles to make the animals move. One worker was observed hitting a very thin cow full force across the hips. Other concerns included overcrowded pens, animals fighting with no intervention, and horned cows being put in pens with non-horned cows creating a great risk of injury.
In addition, large groups of cows were moved at the same time into a narrow chute leading to a ring where they would wait until time to be sold. They were crowded into this very small area and at times were on top of each other. During the sale process, there was a great deal of gate slamming which frightened the cows even further and there was an excessive use of electric prods. Several cows were emaciated with all ribs visible.
As investigators walked around the pen areas to observe conditions, they found one tiny, extremely frail baby calf in a back pen all by itself. It was much too young to be sold without its mother; it was unable to drink water and no one is likely to feed it with milk replacer. The fate of its mother is unknown.
The auction lasted all day. Mainly feeders and heifers were sold. No injuries were observed but the rough handling and the too young calf are of grave concern.