Roping a survivor

Cow goes for a swim in manure pit


BLAIR, Wis. — The Killian family will never forget the day one of their beloved Jersey cows, Lemondrop, fell in the manure pit.

Steve and Amanda milk 75 Jerseys and Holsteins on their farm near Blair. One morning several years ago, the couple started chores like usual. It was a day in late winter that was too cold for barn fans but warm enough to keep the door to the tiestall barn cracked.

Steve discovered an empty stall when he went to milk the switch cows and determined Lemondrop was missing. He milked the rest of the cows and then looked for the missing Jersey. That is when he heard something near the manure pit and discovered Lemondrop in the pit. Just a sliver of her back was visible, and she was on the far side of the pit.

The manure pit is a short storage pit positioned so the barn cleaner empties into it. The cover is a foot-thick slab of concrete with a 3- by 4-foot hole for the manure to fall into. Inside, the pit is about 20 feet by 30 feet.

Steve alerted Amanda, who had finished feeding calves by then. The pit was almost full, and all Amanda could see as she peered into the opening was Lemondrop standing in the pit, with her nose just barely above the surface, facing away from her.

“I got a spotlight, laid down on my belly and had one of the kids hold my legs as I dangled upside down trying to see if I heard what I thought I heard,” Amanda said. “Our first thought was that she was certainly going to die in there and we were going to have to figure out how to get a dead cow out of a covered manure pit. Then, God gave me an idea.”

With help from Steve and the kids, Amanda attached an old lariat to the end of a 15-foot piece of PVC pipe. She guided the apparatus over to the corner of the pit where Lemondrop stood. After several attempts, Amanda got the lariat over Lemondrop’s head.

With Lemondrop roped, the family guided her slowly to the opening of the pit. They then hooked a chain and a hook around Lemondrop’s collar and pulled her out of the pit with the skid loader. They thought they would pull her partially out by the collar and then attach a strap to her body, but she was coming easily so they continued with the collar. She immediately stood once she was on solid ground and ran into the barn, directly to her stall. 

Amanda washed her down and treated her with antibiotics.

“I thought she was certainly going to get a horrible case of pneumonia,” Amanda said. “She never got sick. In fact, she came into heat the next week and settled on the first service.”

Amanda said that when they discovered Lemondrop in the manure pit that morning, she did not think the situation would have a good ending. Instead, Lemondrop is in the barn to this day. She has had two calves since then and remains a productive member of the herd.


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