Time for a herd head-count. ‘Is that you Bessie?’

Cattle will wander but they can also be lured back – as long as you know what you're actually dealing with

Last week, we had an example of hyper-local news headlines: Missing cow.

It came to all regional news outlets from the Ontario Provincial Police Portal.

My first thought was: that cow probably isn’t even missing and she’s getting all of this attention. She’s probably just snuggling up to her sister in this damp weather and the farmer can’t get a good headcount. Happens to our kind all the time.

But then, I thought, this must have been a pretty important cow because the farmer felt the need to call the police.

Perhaps he lives near a busy roadway.

Many of us in Kemptville remember the day, about 15 years ago, when the technicians at the college barns were attempting to load a bunch of cows onto a cattle truck.

The animals went successfully if not exactly willingly up the ramp onto the back of the truck. Things seemed to be going fairly smoothly, until one of the cows managed to push the front door open. The cattle were delicately hopping down out of the truck as quickly as they had entered it.

There was quite a bit of noise from the animals and the herd technicians could hardly hear themselves think. When the lead hand climbed up the ramp to close the door on the last of the animals, he discovered what had happened.

This was before everyone carried a cellphone, so it took a few minutes to get the word out about an entire herd of cattle on the loose, on Prescott Street south.

For some reason, the cows turned left toward Bedell Hill instead of right toward town. I do believe their grand entrance into the bustling metropolis of downtown Kemptville would have made a better story. Imagine looking out the window of the library to see 20 cows running past.

However, they jogged, trotted and danced farther south, eventually reaching the railroad tracks and the highway. This is where the police caught up to them. The officers couldn’t safely block traffic and corral cows at the same time, so at least one of the animals had to be put down.

We didn’t have a local radio station at the time but the story travelled quickly to Ottawa radio. Later that afternoon, I heard the news on the air. The story was followed, unfortunately, by an ad that said “ground beef is on sale this week at Jimmy Dean’s in Winchester. …” Talk about bad timing.

Then there was the time another herd escaped from their unsupervised, off-the-farm location just a few years ago near Oxford Mills. My daughter met them on the road as she attempted to drive into town and called me.

“Ma? What colour are our cows?”

I confirmed they were not our herd but thanked her for the tip and put it on the air at the Kemptville radio station.

The herd of cream-coloured cattle was spotted a few times over the next few days, wandering into yards to nibble on vegetable gardens and lounging in the shade of trees by the creek. They continued to resist capture until eventually the owner called our drover. He miraculously got all 12 cows in his truck by luring them with a lactating mama cow.

Our cattle escaped a few times during our first few years as ranchers. Perhaps they were teaching us about the value of good fencing.

Mocha was particularly fond of the ripe apples she could smell under the trees on the front field. She broke out a few times, ate her fill and then tried to tiptoe back into the barnyard via the shed. She left evidence of her travels in the smashed flowerbeds.

I don’t know whether they managed to successfully locate the missing animal that made the news last week. If they’re still searching, it might help people to know there was at least one glaring error in the police report.

Unless Bessie is clutching two rather large water balloons between her knees in the submitted photo, that’s not a cow at all. It’s a bull. He’s probably being lured by some animals in heat down the road.

I suggest local farmers do a head count of their own, to see if they have one extra.

Troy Media columnist Diana Fisher is a freelance writer living on a 200-acre farm along the Kemptville Creek in Oxford Mills, Ont.

herd count, head count, missing cattle

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