Runaway cows in Quebec evade capture again and again |  Radio-Canada News

Runaway cows in Quebec evade capture again and again | Radio-Canada News

Eight cowboys from Saint-Tite stopped in Saint-Sévère, Quebec. in October with their horses, a drone and a mission.

They had been brought in to fight over 20 runaway Holsteins on the loose since July.

Sylvain Bourgeois, manager of the Festival Western de St-Tite rodeo, says the rodeo was contacted by Marie-Andrée Cadorette, the general manager of the village of Saint-Sévère, after other attempts had failed.

“Around here, it’s not a common thing,” Bourgeois said. “Most people like to keep their cows in the field with good fencing and then they don’t let them run away like that for that long time.”

It is believed that the cows escaped when they were startled by a summer thunderstorm and broke through the fence of a dairy farm near Saint-Barnabé, near Trois-Rivières.

Since then, they have been grazing contentedly wherever they please and wreaking havoc on the fields of nearby farmers.

“It’s kind of normal for the cows to escape from the pasture, like it’s always greener on the other side of the fence, but you just have to keep them [enclosed]”, Bourgeois said. “You can’t wait a few months like this and expect it to be easy to get them back together again.

The Cowboy mission was Plan Z

The mission with the Saint-Tite team was Plan Z, a last resort, said Jean-Yves St-Arnaud, the mayor of Saint-Sévère. The crew worked a long day of 12 hours.

“They lent us barriers that are six feet tall, so the cows wouldn’t jump over them, and eight cowboys and a drone operator. We were well equipped,” St-Arnaud said.

Parts of the farmers’ cornfields were razed by the herd. (Submitted by Jean-Yves St-Arnaud)

At one point, it looked like the cowboys had triumphed.

The cows were successfully herded into a pen. But one managed to escape. From there it all went south and the herd was free again.

“The others left too. They gathered in the cornfields and in the woods and we lost them,” St-Arnaud said. “The result is: they are always free.

Tens of thousands of dollars in damages

The cows’ adventures may seem heroic or fun to the public, but St-Arnaud says it’s serious enough for some local farmers.

He estimates the runaway cows caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage by trampling or eating crops under cover of darkness.

“It’s not to eat the soybean crop, [they use it] sleep on it. The harvest is therefore over. And when it comes to corn, they eat the top half and leave the bottom half, and then the rain gets inside,” St-Arnaud said. “So a harvest [is] completely lost.”

A flattened field of corn and corn stalks.
Jean-Yves St-Arnaud affirms that the damage to crops is quite significant. (Submitted by Jean-Yves St-Arnaud)

He says around seven farmers contacted him towards the end of October about the situation, but the village – a population of 812 – was initially unable to help him because it was private property.

“When animals stay on private property, we as a municipality cannot intervene,” St-Arnaud said. “Around the last week of October… We started asking questions and stepped in once we realized they were going down the road.”

Cows on the street pose a major risk to drivers, he said, and he “doesn’t want to go to the funeral home.”

Although the next step was to contact government organizations such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Quebec and the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, St-Arnaud said the city had received conflicting answers – about which jurisdiction covered the cows that ran amok.

While there are alternatives, like targeting them with tranquilizer guns, they’re not without their own challenges, St-Arnaud said.

“When you knock [a cow with tranquilizer] do you think the others will wait patiently?” said St-Arnaud, laughing.

“For the welfare of the animal, the best thing to do would be to capture it and return it to its owner, or to someone who could take it in.”

Some cows returned to owner

In a written statement, the vice-president of the Local dairy farmers’ group Yves Lamy said some cows were recently recovered and returned to the owner, and the federation is coming up with a plan to round up the rest of the herd. It is not known how many cows are still on the run.

Bourgeois says now is the time to act, before winter freezes the ground and water supplies.

“I don’t know if they’re going to go home for this or if they’re going to be out in the cold. They’re going to be hungry,” said Bourgeois, adding that the Saint-Tite cowboy team could be available to help again if needed.

“People think it’s kinda funny that the cowboys went looking for cows, but it’s done every day in North America… It’s the easiest way, you can go n’ anywhere with a horse,” Bourgeois said.

“If you know where they are, we can set up another enclosure and then catch them.”

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