Fire brigade's cow of a rescue job
White-faced Hereford #308 spent a day-and-a-half jammed at the bottom of a watery well but lived to moo about it.
It was just one of two strange callouts Cambridge firefighters had to contend with on Monday night - the other a trailer sinking in tarseal.
The steer was chewing lush long grass at a Bellevue Rd bloodstock yard near Cambridge when it made a near fatal misstep and plunged down a seven-metre-deep chute.
It plummeted rear first, fortunately.
Meanwhile, owner Joe Barnes, spent Monday at the Taupo races where his horse Knight Wager flew across the 1400m course into second place.
He returned to his 17.5 acre block about 6.30pm, to find Hereford #308 had vanished.
His son Marc said they searched the yards but there was no sign.
It was while cleaning out the feed buckets that Marc noticed the water pump going hell-for-leather and decided to take a look.
"I looked down and there was the cow," Marc said. "It was crazy, just the head coming out looking at you."
He'd never seen anything like it.
"You don't really expect a full grown cow to be down in a well like that. It was a real tight fit - the last place you'd expect it to be."
He and Barnes thought #308 was done for. Of course, it's destined to end up as steak eventually, but neither man wanted to see their animal expire in such nightmarish circumstances.
They called the Cambridge Volunteer Fire Brigade and a rescue mission was launched. One of the firemen climbed into the well on a ladder and tried to get strops beneath #308's body.
But the fit was too tight and he could only free the steer's front legs. They had to loop rope around its neck and front legs and then lift it out using a front-end-loader.
Marc had the pressure-cooker job of slowly raising the bucket without twisting the steer's neck off.
"Truth be told I didn't think the cow would make it because the cow's actually about two metres under the water. It's a long stretch to get it out.
"When I saw it coming out with its head right up I thought, nah, it's not going to survive, but luckily it came out and was blinking and shivering and stuff."
Barnes said #308's eyes were glazed, as if death was near, when he came out. "As soon as we got it warm and some hay around it, the eyes started to open up."
Hereford #308 is walking again and on the mend. Skin abrasions are the only visible sign of the trauma it went through.
Barnes couldn't speak highly enough of the fire service.
"Their attitude, wanting to save the cow as much as we did, was unbelievable."
But Saving #308 wasn't the only offbeat job the Cambridge brigade had that night. At 11pm, they went to Kirkwood St where a refrigerated articulated trailer had fallen into a sinkhole.
Chief fire officer Don Gerrand said the driver left the eight-wheel trailer in Kirkwood St so the motor wouldn't keep anyone awake.
"After he left, the road just gave way," Gerrand said.
"It rolled sideways until the front of the trailer touched the ground and lifted the right-hand wheels up. The stand it was sitting on in the front just sank through the road."
A crane was used to lift the trailer out.