Winter frolicking: Alberta herd goes bovine-wild

In Inverness county, Alberta, more than 750 cows have been saved after only 12% of the original winter grass was left.

The frolicking cows were among the properties in western Canada worst hit by the region’s most severe natural disaster since flooding in 2008.

County officials called on nearby farmers for help trying to save the country’s estimated 700,000 cows, all wintering on the region’s 500,000 acres of winter grass. But in freezing temperatures and over a week of heavy rains in Alberta, which is about 3,000 miles north of the Cornish seaside retreat, more than 750 cows have had to be rescued.

The number of affected cattle numbers to 700,000. Of the estimate, 6,000 to 8,000 are dead, said Jenny Wilcox, who coordinates recovery efforts.

Rescuers don’t know how many calves that cower in pens or flee in the midst of the water have drowned, but a number are expected.

“There are parts of the area that we haven’t even reached yet,” Wilcox said. “It’s not just a matter of going in with our rescue equipment and pulling out and hauling the livestock. It’s also a lot of coordination with field people, with business owners, with people who own properties that are adjacent to fields where there’s standing water.”

The lack of snow this year meant there was no protection for the animals.

“We’ve never had water like this, so it’s pretty much … untouched land and it’s all open,” said Shawn North, president of the Inverness County ranchers association. “You couldn’t just get in there and pump it out.”

Those who can’t get to the land can just watch the wild animals settle in in the red clay, he said.

“If you see emus and eagles and all that there’s livestock that were just calving down there that are, they’re just totally muddy and they’re miserable, and you go in there and it’s kind of disappointing because they’re right beside you that are getting milked,” North said.

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