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A case of cow tipping on Hancock farmland

Police, fire volunteers save pregnant animal in distress

  • Members of the Hancock Fire Department attempt to lift one of Sunnyfield Farm's cows after it tipped over last week. Pictured are: Bill Eva, left, John Pirkey, Dave Lefebvre, Nicole Whitney and Chief Nevan Cassidy. COURTESY PHOTO



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, April 04, 2016 7:15PM

Cow tipping has long been thought to be a myth, the urban legend of the rural set. And when it comes to cow tipping in the classic sense – a group of ne’er-do-wells sneaking into a pasture and pushing a dozing heifer onto her side – that may well be a tall tale. But in Hancock last week, there was a case of real-life cow tipping. This tale, however, has a happy ending.

It started on Wednesday, when a passerby driving down Middle Road in Hancock saw an awful sight – a cow lying on its back, feet straight up in the air.

“If they get on their back, they don’t really have any way to get turned over – sort of like a turtle,” said Dan Holmes of Sunnyfield Farm. Holmes had moved the group of Belted Galloways from Greenfield to a grazing pasture in Hancock back in November; now, it seemed, one of the herd had gotten herself into trouble. Holmes surmised the cow – now large with child – had settled herself onto a small hillock next to a gully, where a feed bin had created a small depression in the earth.

“They’re not made to lie on their backs,” Holmes said. “That cow probably weighed 13, 14 hundred pounds. Once they’re on their back, their whole insides shift all around, and that can be fatal.”

Hancock police received the 911 call, surveyed the scene, and then turned it over to the Fire Department, according to Hancock Fire Chief Nevan Cassidy.

“Truthfully, they didn’t want to walk in the field with their shiny black shoes,” joked Cassidy.

Cassidy said he’d never dealt with a situation like this in his time as a firefighter, and not being a livestock guy – “I’ve got dogs, you know, I don’t know how to deal with a cow or a horse,” he said – he called in some experts, fellow firefighters Tom Bates and John Pirkey. Right away, they spraypainted an orange X on the animal, to differentiate it from the herd. Then, they assembled a crew of firefighters, about 10 or so, and cleaned away the muck surrounding the cow, running a length of old fire hose underneath the animal.

“Everybody pulled like hell and it stood up,” Cassidy said.

The volunteer crew didn’t have much time to celebrate the successful rescue, it turned out. Cassidy said the rest of the herd came around the corner to investigate just what was happening in their field.

”John Pirkey points at one and says: ‘That one’s a bull!’” Cassidy recalled. “So we high-tailed it out of there. I knew I didn’t have to be the first one out of the field, but I wasn’t going to be the last.”

Holmes said the cow has recovered nicely from her scare. The incident was a rare occurrence, he said. “In the decades that we’ve been farming, I’ve maybe seen it once or twice,” Holmes said.

Holmes said he was “really grateful” to the passerby who called in the situation to police, saying it probably saved a life.

“That’s a valuable animal, and we’re glad that worked out the way it did,” Holmes said.

He urged anyone who sees a cow in a state of distress like that – four feet sticking straight up in the air, trapped on its back – to call the police.

And if you do see a tipped cow? Odds are, he said, that the cow ended up that way naturally.

“I think cow tipping is a myth,” Holmes said. “I’ve never seen it where you could walk up on a cow and tip it over. I think it’s one of those urban legends.”