Heifer on the lam 'just another day in the office,' says P.E.I. farmer

It was a Wednesday night like any other for P.E.I. beef farmer John Walsh.

But before he knew it he was on a wild chase for a heifer determined to get in a moonlit dip.

Walsh's farm in Burnt Point spans about 344 hectares. He has 240 cattle.

"We were doing our feeding and chores and somehow it got spooked and busted through the iron gate ... and it just kept on going," Walsh said. "There wasn't a man or beast that was going to stop it."

The heifer in question could be seen making a run for the harbour. Walsh said he had never seen anything like it before.

Laura Meader/CBC

"We're about a mile away from the harbour. And we didn't actually know where it was for a while. We couldn't see it."

A moonlit swim

Once Walsh and his son found it, the heifer was spotted enjoying a swim in the harbour. 

Who knew heifers could swim? "Well this one does — and quite well actually," he said.  

Luckily, Walsh's speed boat was docked at the harbour. He secured a tranquilizer gun from his veterinarian and quickly clambered into the boat with his son.

Off they went to fetch the heifer on the lam.

I know they can be unpredictable but this was a weird one. — John Walsh

Walsh estimates the heifer was swimming in water as deep as 15 or 20 feet at times. 

"It was quite a ride, I've never experienced that kind of thing before. I've been dealing with animals a long time. And I know they can be unpredictable but this was a weird one." 

'Charged, hit, flung'

"Once I located it, I managed to dart it with the tranquilizer," he said. But the first shot, Walsh said, didn't do the job. He was forced to try again.

"And it didn't totally do the job either, it was still pretty wild. I ended up getting charged and hit in the chest and flung me out into the water from ashore," he said. 

After the second dart, however, the heifer became "quite sleepy" and Walsh and his son had to work to keep its head above water. 

Must have really liked the swim. — John Walsh

With a little more effort, the father and son managed to get a halter on the heifer, attaching it to their boat trying to lead it to shore — but not before the heifer tossed the boat around a bit, making yet another energetic attempt for a night swim. 

From there, the pair led the heifer home alongside a tractor to keep it from running back into the harbour. It was a slow trip back.

"Must have really liked the swim," Walsh said. 

While he managed to accumulate a few bumps and bruises from the night's wild and unexpected chase, Walsh said it was "just another day in the office, just another day on the job." 

The gate on the family's barn has been reinforced to prevent future escapes. As for the heifer — she's back safe and sound and grazing "contentedly."

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