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AMY KIRK: Calves that cross the bridge

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

The problem with highways is that some asphalt users travel them at a high rate of speed, creating highway chaos -- and no one causes more mayhem than hot-hoofed baby calves.

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The thought of such instances are the reason why hesitancy and worry filled my mind the other night over the decision to move our cows the next morning to the pasture across the highway. Our home pasture needed some grazing relief, and mental anguish set in anticipating what calf wrecks could unfold at the highway bridge during the move. The half-mile long route may be short, quick and appear easy, but that kind of thinking promptly gets replaced with cringing over the possibility of having to deal with the highway, bridge and traffic before getting every cow-calf pair to the other side.

Recalling past herd-moving wrecks at the highway bridge oftentimes brings about wincing. Getting the cows to the other side of the highway is never simple when there's blacktop we have to get calves past. Even though we bypass the highway by leading and pushing cows under the bridge (thankfully there's no traffic that goes under this highway bridge), the highway overhead contains a special magnetic field that only calves are drawn to.

The mother cows are mostly to blame, because once they realize where they're headed and see abundant, fresh, un-grazed grass, they all lose their heads and become oblivious to their calves' whereabouts. Cows literally lope through the open gate all the way to the other pasture because they know where they're going. During the cow-scattered chaos is when a baby calf fiasco is likely to occur. The whole cow-moving ordeal takes less than ten minutes at lope-speed but the follow-up ends up being an all day process of ensuring that pairs get reunited after calves got separated and left behind during the frenzy. In the aftermath, calves will try to go back for their mothers, especially at the bridge, and manage to squirt through fences, getting to the highway above in hopes of satisfying their curiosity and finding their mothers there.

One would be inclined to think baby calves wouldn't notice a highway above them since we try to slip everybody under the highway, but something magical happens at the bridge. A calf or two find their way to the blacktop. This is when the supernatural powers of a baby calf on a highway surface should never be underestimated. The speed with which these little critters can run on a highway is a phenomenon. Although born cute and wobbly, calves quickly develop legs of undetected turbo piston speed. They're basically equipped with a power chip, fueled by their mother's milk. When a calf is trotting it's a sure sign its turbo booster's about to kick in. If you want to know the speed of which a baby calf is capable, just initiate trying to head off and turn back the cute little hide-and-hair-rocket on blacktop or along a fence. Once our calves' little hooves touch the highway at the bridge, it becomes their racetrack. This time we were fortunate in that only two calves discovered the highway. We got them safely off the highway, but had plenty of monitoring to do afterward until their mothers came and got them.

Regardless of our safety prevention measures and foolproof strategies, there will always be one calf that will cross that bridge when we get to it.

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