Man frees a newborn calf stuck on the wrong side of an electric fence

Man frees a newborn calf stuck on the wrong side of an electric fence

A man named Dave was driving through Millbrook, Ontario — a township home to about 8,000 people — when he spotted a herd of typical brown cows. So, he pulled over to check them out but quickly noticed one cow was acting a bit strange. Perplexed at first, he soon realized the reason for the cow’s behavior — and it was a matter of life or death.

Observing The Cows

It all started on that fateful drive as Dave made his way through the small township not far from Lake Ontario and the United States border. On his way, he pulled over to inspect a grazing herd of cows… and he saw something strange.

Field of Dreams / Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Acting Odd

Now, Dave was no cow expert, but he had an inkling that it was not normal behavior for cows to scrape at the dirt while mooing and whining like this one cow was doing. Something, he knew, was amiss.

Exchanging Looks

The cow — who, according to the tag on her ear, was named Flo — took long looks at Dave over her shoulder while she continued hoofing the ground and making noises of distress. He began to consider that the cow needed something. But what?

Something In The Grass

Flo had lush green pastures to graze in and a pond for drinking and swimming. As far as Dave could tell, she had the cattle equivalent of a penthouse suite. On closer inspection, however, Dave noticed something strange in the grass near Flo…

Hidden By Her Side

Hidden in the grass and on the wrong side of the farm’s fence was a calf — and he was lying helplessly in a ball. Had the mother cow, Dave wondered, simply been warning him to stay away from her baby?

They Needed Help

It only took a moment for Dave to realize he was wrong: futilely, the mother cow sniffed her calf through the fence, and it was clear she wanted help. As he crouched down beside the fence, Dave realized just how much trouble this calf was in.

Newborn In Trouble

The calf was dry as a desert stone, a sign he’d been dehydrated and in the sun for some time. More concerning, though, was the fresh umbilical cord still attached to the baby. That meant the poor calf had been born earlier that day! But worst of all…

One Shocking Problem

The calf was alive, but clearly scared, and he was lying beside an electric fence that had no visible gates. If Dave was going to help the baby, he was going to have to brave about 2,500 volts coursing through the fence’s wires — enough for some unpleasant shocks.

juggernautco / Flickr

Jumped Into Action

But Dave knew the stakes. A newborn calf needed milk and a mother’s affection; what’s more, if Dave left the calf where he lay, he could wander into the road and get hit. With little hesitation, he crouched down and went to work.

Gentle Operation

Picking the calf up and carrying him to a gate — wherever the nearest one was — sounded like a recipe for a bad back and an angry mama cow. The best option, as far as Dave could tell, was to gently nudge the calf under the fence, bit by bit.

Little By Little

Taking a few shocks in the process, Dave lifted the lowest wire of the electric fence with some kind of stick and painstakingly worked the calf underneath it. Unfortunately, the newborn calf didn’t offer much help in moo-ving.

Proceeding With Caution

Meanwhile, Flo responded positively to the operation, despite the shocks her newborn was taking from the electric fence. Dave understood that he needed to show he was taking the utmost of precautions with her baby…

One Great Shove

After a delicate process, Dave gave the calf one final push — and he broke free from the shocks of the electric fence! Finally, he was back inside the pasture with his mother, who greeted her baby with some sniffs. But Dave’s mission wasn’t over yet…

Finding The Owners

First, he participated in what appeared to be a spontaneous reunion party. Flo was thrilled to have her baby back and Dave was equally pleased to have helped them out. After saying his goodbyes to the cattle, the heroic man headed towards the home he spotted on a distant hill.

Surprise Birth

There, Dave spoke with a farmer and his wife, who were the owners of the new baby cow. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t even know their sturdy cow had given birth! For them, there was work to do — so they invited Dave along.

Tending To The Calf

Together, the farmers and Dave tagged the calf’s ear and used iodine to treat the still-dangling umbilical cord. Though the calf seemed healthy, the farmers feared he’d suffered some physical damage from the hot sun…

One Good Samaritan

But much to the farmers’ delight, the young calf was in tremendous shape — though he probably had a killer sun tan! The calf, it seemed, had truly lucked out: what could’ve been a disaster turned out to only be a minor struggle, thanks to Dave.

A Mother’s Appreciation

In fact, Flo seemed to recognize the gravity of what Dave had done for her and her baby. As the mother walked away — led by her happy calf — she gave Dave one last knowing look as if to say “thank you.”

Responding To Emergency

Though, not all the credit goes to Dave. With some powerful moos, fidgeting hooves, and clear signs of concern, Flo the cow communicated that something was wrong, in order to save her newborn calf. From what we know about bovine behavior, their movements say a lot more than you’d expect.

via Pxfuel

Reading Cow Behavior

Dave easily registered the cow’s body language to mean something was wrong. But, after centuries of domestication, the pasture-dwelling creatures are still very vulnerable to danger. That’s why a strange farming trend has emerged combining paint, eyes, and cow butts. And while it sounds ridiculous, Dave can agree that it is actually pretty revolutionary in keeping cattle safe.

Photo by Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty Images

Being Hunted

The practice is based on that feeling you get when you’re being watched, or worse, followed. It’s how we imagine a mouse must feel right before it’s gobbled up by a snake. There’s something about that feeling that brings out our caveman instincts…

Photo by Paolo Torchio / Barcroft USA / Getty Images

A Cow’s Life

When we feel threatened, we know one thing for sure: Whatever is out there watching us must not be very friendly. We rely on that instinctive feeling to get us out of danger, but it doesn’t always save us in time…especially when you’re huge, slow, and a cow.

Max Pixel

At A Disadvantage

Bovines aren’t exactly known for their swift feet or clever minds, which puts them at a serious disadvantage in the wild. Cows are, after all, one of the most popular animals on the market, and not just in the human food chain.

Photo by Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Low On The Food Chain

In Botswana in particular, cows are extremely popular among lions. All non-vegans can relate — there’s nothing quite as tasty as a juicy hamburger…which for African farmers is the whole problem.

Photo by Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images

Cows Vs. Lions

You see, cows are such a favorite among lions in Botswana that they’re being slaughtered by these predators left and right. Farmers can’t keep up with the non-human predators’ taste for beef, and their herds are being diminished in the process.

Photo by China Photos/Getty Image

Creative Thinking

At the end of the day, tenacious shepherds and smaller pastures can only help the cows so much. If these farmers want to save their herds and their livelihoods, then they have to get creative. Thankfully, in 2015, a team of researchers had an idea.

Photo by Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images

Unconventional Idea

It was an…unconventional idea, to say the least. This team of researchers from Communications Biology had a theory that some farmers couldn’t help but scoff at: What if all it took for the cows to stay alive was a little paint?

JamesAALongman / Twitter

Painted Eyes

Well, no, it didn’t involve disguising the cows as predators themselves, but close. Ecologist Neil Jordan’s theory was simple: Have farmers paint eyes onto their cows’ rear ends. Yes, the idea is rooted in science. “It seems like a bit of a wacky idea, but it does have a sound basis in animal behavior theory,” Dr. Jordan told ABC News.

camthera / Twitter

Element Of Surprise

Dr. Neil Jordan of the University of New South Wales and his team of researchers put their theory to the test by recruiting 2061 cows in Botswana between 2015 and 2018. Their theory hinged on one factor: the element of surprise.

@HWConflict / Twitter

Ambush Predators

Lions are ambush predators, meaning they rely on the element of surprise when it comes to catching prey. And think about it: If you came across a cow with a face painted on its butt, you’d be thrown off your game, right?

Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images

“Psychological Trickery”

That’s what farmers are banking on. It’s what Dr. Jordan calls “psychological trickery”: The eyes “trick” the lions into thinking that they’ve been spotted by the cattle, when in reality, the cows are facing the other direction entirely, completely none the wiser.

Photo by Ahmed Alsayed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Strategic Eyes

The whole “eye” thing may sound weird, but it’s actually a pretty common evolutionary trait in animals. Different kinds of butterflies, fish, and birds have “eyes” on their wings, scales, and feathers that make them seem more alert to predators than they really are.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Being Watched

You know that creepy feeling of being watched we were talking about? We humans have used that to our advantage, too. In 2012, signs placed near bike racks in several countries featured a pair of eyes that successfully decreased the amount of bikes being stolen.

melissasuzanneh / Twitter

The Experiment Begins

To test that all it takes is a pair of eyes to ward off predators, Dr. Jordan and his team of researchers split those 2,061 cows into three groups: 683 cows had eyes painted onto their butts, 543 cows had cross marks, and the control group of 835 cows were left unmarked.

HWConflict / Twitter

Painting On The Eyes

The process of painting eyes onto the cows’ butts was as simple as it sounds. They used a paint stamp to imprint the eyes onto the cows, and used black paint on white cows and yellow paint on brown cows. Then, they waited…

BPCTcamp / Twitter

Fewer Cow Deaths

And the results they collected were astonishing. The group without painted eyes saw 15 cow deaths from lion attacks, while the cross mark group saw four deaths. The experimental group, however, all survived without a scratch…which may leave you with an even bigger question.

Photo by Yves GELLIE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

What About The Lions?

With the cows no longer a huge part of their diet, what are the lions going to do? As it turns out, the cows weren’t the only victims when they were being killed by predators. The lions who kill are indirectly affected by their own predatory actions, and not in a good way.

Photo by Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images

Lions Killed

“When lions kill cows, farmers lose money, and the lions are often killed in retaliation,” Dr. Jordan said. “We’re estimated to be losing about 20 times as many lions to these sorts of retaliatory killings…than are taken by the trophy hunting industries.”

Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Saving Cows = Saving Lions

According to Dr. Jordan, there’s a “culture of killing” when it comes to managing predators in Africa. That’s why he worked in conjunction with African farmers and the Predatory Conservation Trust. Saving cows from lions actually helps the lions in the long run…

Photo by Nathan Pellow-Jarman / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

There’s Hope

Of course, the painted eyes experiment is still in its early stages. When it comes to that instinctual desire to hunt, all animals are likely to pounce on prey they think they can take. Still, you have to admit, Dr. Jordan’s theory is pretty genius. I mean, even humans are doing double takes on those peepers!

LohDown / Twitter