Bull pounds Teeswater farmer; cow catapults Wingham farmer into the air
The day after celebrating his 44th birthday, Teeswater area farmer, Martyn Van Meeteren got a late, unwanted present. On April 22, things went terribly wrong when Martyn was moving his home-raised, 3-year-old Charolais bull over to another pen of cows. His docile herd sire turned into an uncontrollable, raging killer.
There wasn’t even a snort to indicate that this routine move would end up in a life-threatening mauling. Martyn recounted how he had opened the gate to let the bull out and patted him as he walked by. But when he unlatched the final gate and opened it toward himself, he felt something unusual. As he stepped back, the big beast’s head was against his leg.
Surprised, he looked at the bull and asked, “…are you going to hit me?”
The big boy took it as an invitation because instantly it began smashing into the farmer’s leg, shoving him into the gate which was now pushed shut. Martyn was in big trouble and if he went down — game over.
Throwing his right arm over the adjacent head rail, he clamped onto it for dear life. Martyn tried to repel the bull by hitting him with his left hand — to his own hurt because a man’s hand is no match for a bovine skull. His blows only smashed his own wrist and hand.
“I don’t know how many times he hit me” said Martyn over coffee at their kitchen table, still visibly affected as he relived the moment. But being “stuck in that corner” taking the brute force of a 2,000 lb. beast crushing him into the diamond-bar gate, he couldn’t hold up on his feet under the pounding any longer.
The helpless farmer crumpled down, landing on the bull’s head.
That was the most fortunate turn of the whole incident. The next thrust of that massive poll “volley-balled” Martyn up and over the head rail into the feed manger. By his estimation, Martyn sailed up about 8 ft. and looking down at the concrete, he knew that “This is gonna hurt.”
Plunging head-first, the burly, 6-ft. man reached out to break his fall and the impact snapped a bone in his right forearm.
It still wasn’t over. Before the injured farmer could react, the bull reached through the head rail and resumed its attack. Martyn rolled across the 6-ft. alley and crawled to safety.
Martyn needed help. His cell phone was about 100-ft. away in his coat pocket. But before getting his phone, he reached through the head rail and swung the gate open, releasing the bull to the other cows.
When asked how he did that with two broken arms, he replied, “Pure adrenalin.”
Martyn then called his wife, Carrie, who heard some of the most terrifying words a farming wife could hear “The bull got me…” Carrie knew immediately that there was trouble as she could hear the cows and bull bellowing in anger. She ran to the barn and found her battered husband covered in manure, sitting on an up-ended 5-gallon pail.
Although Carrie found Martyn lucid and somewhat capable, her medical training as a nurse immediately prompted thoughts of possible internal injuries. Fortunately, they were all external — one broken arm, fractures to his left wrist and hand, deep bruising to his legs and a series of neatly spaced lacerations 7-inches apart up his leg and ribcage, the marks of being repeatedly crushed and ground against the diamond bar gate. These were bad enough.
In that moment, Martyn said all he wanted was a drink. Carrie rushed into the house and returned with a full coffee mug. But when he took it from her hand, his right arm folded into “a hockey stick shape.”
With a full change into clean clothes, Carrie got him into the pickup and off to receive medical attention at the local hospital. After getting casts applied, Martyn further received specialized care in London where he had to endure further re-setting of one fracture. That, he said, “…is when the real pain happened.”
After returning home, Martyn soon got back to doing what he could, like driving the skid steer to feed the cows in the manger where he had crash landed. But one thing was different. When Martyn drove the skid steer down that manger, the bull would follow him along, plowing the cows away from the head rail and reaching through to beat on the machine, nearly rocking it off its wheels.
This total change in attitude sealed the bull’s fate and at the earliest opportunity he got processed into ground beef. The Van Meeteren family has a freezer full of hamburger patties.
But work on a farm never stops for inconveniences. Martyn and Carrie went about putting in their spring crop, immensely helped by compassionate neighbours, their own four children too young to step in to fill Dad’s shoes. Obviously, Martyn is limited in what he can do, but he certainly doesn’t let his injuries stop him. Carrie’s commitment shone through as she quietly described stepping into duties to which she was unaccustomed.
It isn’t just the bull that needs to be treated with respect. John Farrell of Wingham found out the hard way that a beef cow can be just as dangerous, only a few days after the Van Meeteren dustup.
The tall, lean, 69-year-old farmer was helping a newborn calf get its first feed after bringing it from the pasture where it was born, into the barn with a wheelbarrow. The old cow with the big, swollen teats followed along quietly.
In the pen, John remembers reaching out to offer the calf a bottle of milk, the momma cow nearby. The next thing he knew, he was regaining consciousness 16 feet from where he had last stood, with a gash on his skull and blood running down his head and shoulder.
He does not know what happened, or why. But it seems that the cow suddenly took sharp exception to his help and sent him flying against the side of the pen where he hit his head, gashing it open. Fortunately, the cow didn’t bother him any further, a fact which John attributes to his being knocked out cold and laying motionless. He got up, finished the chores and headed to the house to assess the damage.
Both men are fortunate to be alive. What do these farmers have to say after their traumatic experiences?
The Van Meeterens specified two things: first, they praised the amazing support of a community that came together to help after Martyn’s bull attack. Secondly, “Don’t take a living animal for granted,” warned Martyn, something which many of us with livestock far too easily overlook.
The Farrells also emphasized the unpredictability of large animals even after decades of working safely alongside them. John added another bit of reflection, “We don’t have to do this anymore…”
A neighboring farmer commented, “They’re a silent killer,” and then added wryly, “But mine would never do that.”