South Miami-Dade

Miami-Dade firefighters rescue pregnant cow from ditch

For Miami-Dade Fire Rescue workers it was an unusual call: A pregnant cow was stuck in a drainage ditch near the Homestead Air Reserve Base and needed help.

The Sunday drama began when Miguel Hernandez found his cow stuck in five feet of mud on Texas Avenue. He called Miami-Dade firefighters.

Veterinarian Zachary Franklin also rushed to the scene where the Jersey, a small breed of dairy cow common in Homestead-area farms, was trapped.

“I don’t know how the cow got into the canal,” Franklin said. “The owner went looking for his cow – she is due to have a calf in two or three days – and he couldn’t find her. There was no way for her to climb out. She needed help.”

Pregnant cows in need of rescue are a rare occurrence, said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Jeffrey L. Fobb.

“This is the first cow that we’ve had in years, and it took a team to get her out,” Fobb said. “It takes cooperation from a bunch of different parts of the fire department.”

First, a firefighter jumped into the ditch and gave the cow fresh cut green grass to try to persuade her to move up. Then firefighters attached a special harness to the 900-pound animal and used a crane to lift her out of the ditch. The mud was so thick, one of the firefighters had trouble getting out, Franklin said.

After being pulled to safety, the cow hardly batted an eye.

“She lay down and stood right up,” Franklin said. “She was bright and alert and went right back to eating.”

Sunday’s was a successful rescue, but some can go tragically wrong.

University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine Director John Haven specializes in training fire departments across the state to stage such rescues.

“People could risk their own lives and get hurt in the process,” Haven said. “Without the proper harness, they can try to use a cowboy rope around the animal’s neck and can strangle them.”

Haven said an excited cow can become a threat to rescuers, requiring a veterinarian needs to sedate it.

“Part of what we try to do is train the firefighters on how not to get hurt and on how not to hurt the animals,” Haven said. “It’s an important mission because without them, the animals would probably get shot or just be left to die.”

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