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Arkansas Cattle Farmer Works to Rebuild Shattered Family Business

Image: Cattle rancher Preston Scroggin cleans up a corral destroyed by Sunday's tornado at his farm in Vilonia, Ark.
Cattle rancher Preston Scroggin cleans up a corral destroyed by Sunday's tornado at his farm in Vilonia, Ark. on Wed. April 30. Scroggin lost more than 70 of his 400 cattle to the storm.John Brecher / NBC News

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VILONIA, Ark. - Sunday's devastating tornado wiped out Preston Scroggin's house and killed dozens of his cattle, but the lifelong farmer plans to pick up the pieces and carry on what has been his family's business for five generations.

Scroggin's sprawling 700-acre cattle farm in Vilonia was in the direct path of Sunday's tornado. The twister took out his home, his barn and nearly a quarter of his cattle.

"We lost 72 head of cattle so far and will probably lose another 20 or 30 more," he said Wednesday. At $1,500 a piece, that is "very bad economically" for Scroggin's business.

Image: Cattle rancher Preston Scroggin cleans up a corral destroyed by Sunday's tornado at his farm in Vilonia, Ark.
Cattle rancher Preston Scroggin cleans up a corral destroyed by Sunday's tornado at his farm in Vilonia, Ark. on Wed. April 30. Scroggin lost more than 70 of his 400 cattle to the storm.John Brecher / NBC News

The 47-year-old moonlights as the state's director of livestock and poultry, a position he was appointed last year, after six years as the county's judge.

"When I saw the damage and the loss Sunday night, I didn't think I wanted to go back" to cattle ranching, he said, as he cleaned up debris from what was once a concrete reinforced barn. "I've seen many tornadoes in my life, but nothing like this one."

Scroggin now says he plans to clean up and rebuild his business. But the loss of livestock, which he buried in a mass grave on the farm Monday, weighs on him financially and personally.

"I've probably handled a million head of cattle," he said. "It's a heritage. They get to know you. They get in your blood," he said.

—Carlo Dellaverson

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