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Holstein Heifers Take a Road Trip on U.S. 35 in LaPorte County

by Stan Maddux

Published: Friday, February 12, 2021

Talk about a mooo-ving violation.

About 75 calves escaped from a LaPorte County dairy farm last weekend and galloped several miles on two major highways before being rustled up.

Rick Welsh, the owner of the farm near Kingsbury, said he was definitely shocked by how the animals ran together as a group for such a long distance.

Normally, Welsh said cows, after getting loose, sort of scatter and just wander away for a short distance.

"These guys were on a mission," he said.

Fortunately, no motor vehicles collided with any of the calves thanks to the efforts of LaPorte County Police Capt. Derek Allen.

Allen was off-duty in his take-home police vehicle last Saturday when his eyes bulged from the unexpected site of a stampede heading toward him.

The 10-month-old calves were southbound in the northbound lanes of U.S 35 at Kingsbury.

"They were in the roadway coming right at me. They were at a full gallop," he said.

In response, Allen said he quickly did a U-turn and drove ahead of the herd on the opposite side of the four-lane highway.

He then cut across the four-lane highway and got in front of the animals running at about 15 miles per hour.

Allen kept the cows in his rear view mirror to warn oncoming motorists about the stampede even after the animals started eastbound on U.S. 6.

He said motorists safely pulled over and whipped out cell phones to record what looked like an

old-fashioned cattle drive without cowboys.

"I activated my emergency lights to make the oncoming motorists aware there was an emergency on the roadway. The oncoming motorists were very gracious and stopped along the roadway once they saw what was traveling directly behind me," Allen said.

One of the videotaping drivers was Drew Renz, heading home to Kingsford Heights from LaPorte.

At first, Renz thought his eyes were playing tricks as the procession of cows ahead of him turned from 500 South to U.S 35.

He hit the record button on his cell phone while slowly driving past the cows from the opposite lanes.

"I was in disbelief seeing the enormous herd freely running down the highway," he said.

The video he posted on Facebook racked up more than 60,000 views.

"I knew I needed evidence of what I'd seen or my wife wouldn't believe me," he said.

Allen said he was still ahead of the cows when he alerted the owner, who had no idea the animals escaped.

A small number of the young cows were corralled in a fenced area near U.S 6 and 700 South.

The remaining calves galloped for another mile until rounded up in a field in the area of 800 South and Range Road.

Sheriff's deputies with help from Welsh, volunteer firefighters and other individuals had the cows on their way back home in trailers about one hour later.

Allen said the cows were pretty exhausted after their long sprint.

"You could tell they started to wear down after a bit. They ran over three miles," he said.

Welsh said he has 150 calves at the farm housed in two pole barns surrounded by pens.

He sells the calves to dairy farms once the animals are ready to breed and give milk two years after birth.

He speculated a few neighbor kids opened a gate and may have spooked the calves as a prank because of how the animals raced away.

Welsh said a youth allowed his calves to escape by opening the same gate on different occasions several years ago.

Those calves did not run off like his most recent herd, doing well after their physical exertion.

"Everybody is eating and they almost act like nothing happened. They definitely got some major exercise that day," he said.

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