Suplesse Farms is pleased that all cows and people on the Tranmer Road property are safe after an unexpected visitor arrived Friday night and began freeing cows from their enclosures.
The cow freedom fighter is believed to be a visitor from the neighbouring Electric Love Music Festival – the three-day electronic music event at the shores of the Fraser River on Cheam Fishing Village land.
Long-time Agassiz residents Georgia and Martin Flukiger have been farming in Agassiz for nearly 30 years and have over 150 dairy cows.
On Friday around 6 p.m., the family had finished working in the barn for the day and had headed back to their house to grill some burgers and have a few beers.
With their proximity to the weekend festival – less than a kilometre from the farm – Flukiger said they had no choice but to hear the music. They decided to sit outside and embrace it, so to speak. Her father came by and wanted to have a look at some recent renovations on the barn.
Suddenly he came running out from the back.
“The cows are out!” Flukiger remembers him yelling.
“Those are nightmare words for a farmer,” She told the Observer. “We were all just dumbstruck. We had just been in the barn, there was no reason any of them could have been out.”
Flukiger, her son, father and daughter-in-law all ran to the barn, trying to heard up the 23 heifer who were enjoying their new-found freedom.
That’s when Flukiger spotted a young man, sun-burnt and wearing nothing but shorts. He was talking to a cow.
Amidst the excitement, the man – believed to be under the influence of narcotics or ‘over-indulged’ as Flukiger put it – became overwhelmed and left the barn.
Flukiger’s father was tasked with keeping an eye on him while the others herded the heifers. According to what Flukiger, the man said he had left the festival before he ran and dove into the manure pit.
For non-farmers – a manure pit is not simply piled up manure. It’s an Olympic swimming pool-sized well full to the brim with manure and often has a hardened crust along the surface. It’s saved there for manure-spreading in the Spring and is by no means an ideal place for a swim.
Although the entire incident has brought the family some laughs – Flukiger said the man’s pit dive could have easily ended in tragedy.
“A manure pit is a very unforgiving place. If he had gone into the deep end, he wouldn’t have come back up.”
But the intruder did emerge, crawling from the pit and heading to the field to dry off.
“When I came out of the barn I saw him on the grass, writhing with his shoes above his head,” she recalled.
Eventually the man was calm enough to be hosed down, and the RCMP came shortly after, taking him into custody without resistance.
Once the shock of the incident wore off, the family was able to have a good laugh about the ordeal.
“We were a bit spooked, we checked the barn several times that night,” Flukiger said. “We’re very thankful [the cows] weren’t hurt, we weren’t hurt and [the man] was okay.”
No one was hurt Friday night, but Flukiger still has concerns about the safety of her animals, and the liability her family could be hit with if a wanderer was to get hurt on the property.
They are pushing for changes to be made to the festival, namely, the installation of fences.
“We’re going to be pushing, on all fronts, that they need to have a fence if they want to have events like that,” Flukiger said. “We are looking for dialogue with all parties.”
The Observer has not yet received comments from the Agassiz RCMP or Cheam First Nation and will update the story with any additonal information.