Special delivery

Strnad assists laboring heifer on Gagnows’ farm

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SEYMOUR, Wis. — Jon Strnad went above and beyond his duties as a driver for the United Parcel Service when he delivered a calf in between delivering packages April 15.

When driving past KJ Farms near Seymour around 2 p.m., Strnad noticed a heifer on pasture giving birth that seemed to be struggling.

The calf was halfway out with the sack over its head, and neither the calf nor the heifer were moving much. Having grown up on a dairy farm, Strnad had seen that scenario many times. He slowed down and watched.

“When you see them laying like that, you wonder how long they’ve been in that position,” he said. “It doesn’t end well for the calf if things stay that way for too long. It looked like she needed help.”

 Strnad was qualified for the job, so he parked his truck on the side of the road and hopped the fence.

“I’ve pulled calves ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper,” said Strnad, whose family continues to farm near Rio Creek. “Growing up, I remember pulling calves with my brothers and my dad.”

Strnad approached the pair slowly, but when the heifer stood up, Strnad knew he had to act fast.

“Now is when the calf could really get hurt,” he said. “I broke a hole in the sack close to the mouth so the calf could get air. Its head moved, and I thought she took a gasp of air.”

At this point, the heifer turned away from Strnad.

“I could tell she was groggy and wasn’t going to move much more,” he said. “I grabbed the front legs and pulled the calf out while trying to break the fall. When the calf landed on the ground, it still wasn’t moving. I cleared the pathway to get the slimy stuff out of her mouth and rubbed her nose. She moved a bit. Then, she really started to move.”

The movement piqued the interest of the heifer, who came over and began licking the calf as Strnad observed from 6 feet away. All looked well to the man in the brown uniform when he noticed a large animal coming toward him making a grunting noise.

“I saw the bull and knew that was my cue to leave,” Strnad said.

Having made the ultimate delivery, Strnad drove to the Gagnows’ house and knocked on the patio door. When Tracy Gagnow answered, Strnad said, “I’m just letting you know I pulled a calf.” Then, he turned and left.

“I was shocked,” Tracy said. “People call us sometimes when they see an animal is calving, but we’ve never had anyone deliver a calf before. His hands were bloody, and I thought, ‘That was rude of me. I didn’t even have him come in and wash his hands.’”

Kurt Gagnow, who farms with his son, Jacob, was working in the shop at the time and saw the UPS truck leaving the driveway but did not think anything of it. The Gagnows milk 50 cows and farm 350 acres on the farm Kurt worked on since he was 12 years old and purchased in 2001. Kurt’s 90-year-old father helps work the land.

When Tracy called Kurt to tell him the UPS man delivered a calf, he said, “What kind of box did it come in?” Kurt then proceeded to check on the newest member of the herd.

“Jon saved the calf’s life and the mom’s life,” Kurt said. “When they stand up like that, they can pinch a nerve in their back when the calf comes out, and it paralyzes their back end.”

Strnad has driven for UPS for 30 years and said this was the most unique situation he has ever been in. When the CEO of the company heard about his heroic act, she sent Strnad a letter and gave him a medal.

“The medal is reserved for drivers who go above and beyond their regular duties,” Strnad said. “The CEO told me this made her day.”

Strnad believes in putting the customer first, and looking out for the creatures on his route is part of that mindset. When he saw an animal in need, he acted.

“Mom and baby are doing great,” Tracy said. “She is a first-calf heifer, and they can be touchy. If they don’t recover well, you could lose them, so it always makes you nervous.”

The Gagnows named the calf Joni, adding the letter “I” to the name of the man who helped save her life. The Gagnows did not know Strnad before that day and are grateful for the generosity and quick thinking shown by a stranger. Brought together by unusual circumstances on their small family farm, the Gagnows forged a friendship with their delivery man.

“We’ll always be connected now,” said Strnad, who has a special place in his heart for the calf he helped bring into the world.

Joni will be in the petting zoo at the Outagamie County Fair June 26-30 for anyone who wants to meet the spunky calf that might not have made it if a certain UPS man had not taken the time to stop that day.

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