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Calves taken, traded for crack, deputies say

It was a drug deal gone country.

Cows for crack.

Three 100-pound, 1-month-old calves, swiped from their southeastern Pasco County home at Palm River Dairy, were swapped for $300 of crack cocaine, according to Pasco County sheriff's officials.

They say the deal took place June 8. On Monday, Kenneth Wayne Howard, a 25-year-old worker at the Crystal Springs dairy, stood accused of stealing the calves during the night and trading them for 15 pieces of crack.

Not your typical drug deal.

"(Stealing) merchandise for crack is common, but cows for crack is a little unusual," said Sheriff's Office spokesman Jon Powers.

The black-and-white Holstein calves are still missing, and Joseph Spoto, the dairy's owner, doesn't expect to see them again.

"From what I understand they were in the hands of a drug dealer," Spoto said Tuesday. "I don't know what's happened to them. They probably got traded off for someone to raise them. We're (concerned) in a way. I just hope someone knows how to raise them."

The theft was discovered when an employee noticed that the calves weren't in their feeding pens for their regular 7:30 a.m. breakfast. The feeder had gone to deliver their pail of cow's milk and oat corn _ they had just started on solid foods. Because they had been there for dinner the night before, Spoto said, they must have been heisted during the night.

Pasco County Detective Roger Mills, who arrested Howard, wrote in his report that Howard admitted to taking the cows and trading them for the crack. The calves' estimated $300 value bought Howard 15 rocks of crack, which Howard later smoked, Powers said.

Meanwhile, Howard of Wise Road in Crystal Springs was charged with grand theft of livestock and was being held Tuesday in the county jail in Land O'Lakes on $5,000 bail.

"We'd had an idea he had a drug problem," Spoto said, adding that Howard has worked at the dairy off and on the past 10 years. "He started missing work and he just looked terrible. He looked sick all the time."

As for his cows, Spoto said, he will take the $300 loss to his dairy business.

"What can I say?" Spoto said. "They were good calves. I just feel bad about the boy getting in trouble."