Authorities suspect vandals caused 3,800 pigs to suffocate in a building at a hog confinement operation near Hull in northwest Iowa, according to a Des Moines Register report.

The Sioux County Iowa sheriff's office says the owner of the operation called authorities on Friday to report the incident. The sheriff's office says Todd Hasche, of rural Rock Rapids, told authorities that last Thursday night the controls to the building's airflow system had been tampered with, causing the pigs to suffocate.

"We have no idea why somebody would do something like this," said Sheriff Dan Altena. According to Altena, someone entered the facility, 2739 Highway 75, and intentionally turned off the confinement's airflow and alarm systems sometime during the overnight hours last Thursday, causing the pigs to suffocate.

"These confinements have an alarm system that if something goes bad with the air handling unit it telephones to a certain location," Altena said. "They shut down both of those."

At 10:30 a.m. Friday, owner Todd Hasche, of rural Rock Rapids, Iowa, called police and reported that all of the feeder pigs at the facility were dead and that someone had tampered with the confinement's airflow system.

"You kind of go into crisis mode and get juice back to the barn as soon as possible," Hasche said Monday when he discovered the airflow system had been shut off. But is was too late, all of the pigs at the confinement had perished.

Hasche, who owns three hog confinements, said the main breakers in the barn and a stand-by generator were turned off and the alarm system was disabled. This act of vandalism was "very cruel," and "as intentional as can be," according to Hasche.

The 50-60 lb. pigs were ready to be shipped off Friday afternoon, but instead, Hasche said he and his friends and neighbors spent three hours removing their carcasses from the barn. The loss of the pigs is estimated at more than $200,000.

Source: Des Moines Register, Sioux City Journal