Animal agriculture in the Texas Panhandle may be tested soon on whether it can punish its own when severe abuse is involved.

Castro County Sheriff Salvador Rivera is now investigating E6 Cattle Co. in Hart, Texas after a Mercy For Animals undercover video surfaced last week showing brutal mistreatment of animals. 

Located between Amarillo to the north and Lubbock to the south in Castro County, the E6 Cattle Co. rears as many as 10,000 calves for dairy farms.

Chicago-based Mercy For Animals sent in an undercover operative who spent two weeks in March collecting digital pictures of what was going on inside the cattle operations.

Here’s what the video, widely circulated on the Internet, shows:

Workers bludgeoning calves’ skulls with pickaxes and hammers — often involving 5 to 6 blows, sometimes more — before rending the animals unconscious.

Beaten calves, still alive and conscious, thrown onto piles.

Workers kicking downed calves in the head, and standing on their necks and ribs.

Calves confined to squalid hutches, thick with manure and urine buildup, and barely large enough for the calves to turn around or fully extend their legs.

Gruesome injuries and afflictions, including open sores, swollen joints and severed hooves.

Ill, injured and dying calves denied medical care.

The budding horns of calves burned out of their skulls without first adminstering painkillers.

After viewing the undercover work, Dr. Temple Grandin, the Colorado State University animal welfare expert who advises USDA, gave the group a statement.

 “It is obvious that both the management and the employees have no regard for animal welfare,” Grandin said.  Her CSU colleague, Dr. Bernard Rollin, condemned E6, saying: “I urge everyone in a position of authority to serve notice to the world that this sort of behavior has no place in a society wishing to consider itself civilized. These people must be corrected with the full force of the legal system.”

Animals that are panicked or stressed are more likely to contract diseases that spread foodborne illnesses.

Kirt Espenson, owner of the E6 Cattle Co., has taken responsibility. “I take this very seriously and I am deeply saddened on what’s happened on our farm. I take full responsibility,” he said.

The Texas cattlemen said sick calves, winter weather, and some inexperienced hands created the situation that Mercy For Animals captured on tape.

Once the Castro County Sheriff completes his investigation, the findings will go to James Horton, the county attorney in Dimmitt, Texas. It will be up to Horton whether to prosecute and, if so, what kind of charges to pursue.

Mercy For Animals has already provided Horton with a detailed complaint under the Texas anti-cruelty law.

“The evidence demonstrated an ongoing pattern of torture, unjustifiable infliction of pain and suffering on animals, and a failure to provide necessary medical care,” the MFA statement says.