BYRON — A cattle farmer whose herd was swept away by the swollen Zumbro River on June 28 is still looking for some of his cows.
Bob Eustice, who raises beef cattle in Byron, said 56 cows were swept away from his farm the morning of June 28. Four cows and seven calves have yet to be recovered.
"We haven't been able to track down those 11," Eustice said.
He said several other cows had been located but not yet brought back to the farm, and four calves had died.
Eustice started his day on June 28 like it was any other rainy Friday, but when he got out to the pasture about 6 a.m., he realized it'd be far from normal.
"The pasture was completely flooded, and all the cows were gone," Eustice said.
The cows had been in a field near Oxbow Park, on pasture right along the branch of the river. Heavy rain overnight — about 7 inches — flooded ditches, roads, houses, fields and pastures.
Videos posted online that morning showed Eustice's cows being swept down the river in the current.
"They were floating downstream through Oxbow Park by the time I got out there," he said.
The sight concerned the 73-year old Eustice, but it didn't cause him panic, he said. He wasn't surprised when most of the cattle survived the experience, either.
"We were hoping and thinking they'd be able to survive," he said. "We know cows can swim."
There wasn't much that could be done to rescue the cows that morning, he said, because the park was flooded and the river was too high to attempt any kind of recovery.
Once the river was back within its banks, cattle that could be located were recovered a couple miles downstream from the park. Neighbors helped Eustice by offering their trailers, and a corral was set up to hold the cattle.
The pasture the cows were in is a loss now, said Eustice. Two weeks after the flooding, very little grass could be seen. He said that about three-quarters of a mile of fencing would need to be replaced.
In the 37 years he's been farming there, Eustice said he's never seen anything like the flooding that day. The last bad flood was in 2010, he said, but the water level at Oxbow was about 15 inches lower than it was on June 28.
A veterinarian has examined the recovered cattle and deemed them to be OK. But Eustice is watching them closely because a handful have developed foot issues.