Runaway cows steal the show

Heifers that escaped from farm after gate left open and gathered in neighborhood amuse shocked residents, become a sensation across the country
Ozaukee Press staff

Much to the amazement of residents of the Rolling Meadows subdivision in the Town of Port Washington last Wednesday, a herd of cows decided to take a stroll through their neighborhood.

The sight of heifers prancing around the subdivision’s condominiums rather than a farm was caught on video that went viral, piquing people’s attention from Boston to Hawaii.

Numerous residents of the subdivision stepped outside to watch, keeping their eyes peeled for the inevitable cow piles. Some tried to herd the group of about 15 animals while others just took in the sight and joked about the scene.

“I was grilling out and I ran out of hamburger,” Brian McGarry joked as he filmed the animals on his phone. Among the news organizations that requested permission to use McGarry’s video was NBC News, which distributed the footage to affiliates throughout the country.

Lisa Krier said the animals delighted her grandchildren, Lila, 5, and Jack 7, Connolly, who sat and watched them for about 15 minutes as the cows walked down the subdivision’s mowed walking path and then around the homes.

“It was cute,” she said. “My granddaughter kept saying, ‘This is the best day of my life. This is the best day ever.’”

“It’s awesome,” Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Lt. Brad Arndt said, noting this is America’s Dairyland after all. Deputies called to the scene helped with traffic control, he said, noting the animals were being herded home by the time they arrived.

Adam Melichar of Melichar Broad Acres said the cows — actually heifers, young females who haven’t had a calf yet — were being kept on the Kultgen farm on Highway B when a farmhand who was being trained “missed a step” and didn’t close a gate to the barn.

“When you’re new to a farm setup, it’s a lot to learn,” Melichar said.

Between 30 and 40 animals escaped, heading south on Highway B, across the I-43 overpass and Highway LL, straight into the subdivision.

A neighbor saw the animals and called him, Melichar said, so he and his farmhands headed to the neighborhood.

The bulk of the cows were still on Highway B, he said, so they escorted them home, returning to get the stragglers who were still exploring the subdivision.

“They usually get nervous. Once they get out, they usually just hang around the farm. They don’t even go onto the road,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

While he’s glad the subdivision residents enjoyed the incident, “I didn’t,” Melichar said, noting animal escapes don’t happen often. “Hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”

Arndt noted that it’s not unusual for authorities to get calls about escaped cows — or for deputies on patrol to see cows out.

“We’ll just run to the farmhouse and bang on the door,” he said. “It’s not too big a deal. It’s a call we’re very familiar with. It happens maybe twice a month.”

Arndt noted that earlier this year a herd of about 75 cows escaped from their farm on the northern end of the county, but they didn’t even stray onto the road, preferring to stay just on the other side of the fence.

Having an animal in the roadway is a town ordinance violation, but Arndt said deputies can’t cite the owner if he’s out looking for his animals.

“We’re not in the business of citing farmers for having cows on the road,” he said.

The scene unfolded late Wednesday, Oct. 4,  as Linda Curran was sitting in her home sewing while her husband was downstairs working.

“I’m used to hearing weird noises,” she said. “But I heard this horrible, weird noise. It wasn’t a clear mooing.”

She looked up, she said, and “I saw this cow’s head going past my window. I looked out and I couldn’t believe it.”

About 15 cows were running around her house, Curran said, noting they took two laps before some residents stopped them in her side yard, where the animals “started to munch on my bushes.”

McGarry said he was sitting in his living room when he saw a “stray cow wandering around.”

“This is a pretty quiet area. That’s something you just don’t see,” he said. “They just wandered in and out around the condos. They didn’t get really excited until they tried to herd them.”

He filmed the video of the animals, complete with off-the-cuff commentary, he said, because “it was such an odd thing.”

Pat and Ken Kozak were driving home when they saw the cows on the roadway.

“All of a sudden we saw these cows coming at us,” Ken said. “We were coming down the hill, the cows were coming up the hill.”

“I was shocked,” his wife said. “I just kept saying, ‘Cows?’”

They took pictures of the odd sight, Pat from outside the car and Ken from inside. By then, the animals were being herded home by Melichar and his farmhands.

The cows, he said, passed on either side of the car as they headed home.

The incident was over in less than an hour, with the heifers leaving cow piles and “enormous footprints” about four inches deep in their wake and residents with a story to tell, Curran said.

“It was very beautiful, actually, when you get past the idea they’re grazing on your plants,” she said. “They’re such pretty cows.”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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