Displaced livestock shepherded to safety amid New Brunswick flooding


While residents of waterlogged New Brunswick are packing sandbags and leaving homes, Good Samaritans have come to the rescue of another group afflicted by the natural disaster: displaced farm animals.

Livestock uprooted by the flood have been shepherded to the Fredericton Exhibition grounds, which currently houses just over 200 horses, cows, sheep, goats, and even zebu — a type of miniature bull.

Charlie Miles, president of the Fredericton Horsemen’s Association, said in a phone interview that the flooded Saint John River is causing uninhabitable conditions for animals in lower-ground areas.

“This time of year it’s absolutely freezing,” he said. “There are pieces of ice floating by, and you have your cows or animals standing up to their knees or shoulders, and it’s very, very hard on them because it’s cold.”

Miles said he’s confident the exhibition grounds will act as a safe haven for the animals until flood waters recede, noting that they haven’t flooded since 1827.

Farmers and volunteers brought the asylum-seeking animals to the grounds by trucks, trailers and barges. The last batch of animals arrived Friday.

Some needed medical attention after their ordeal, Miles said.

“We’ve had to have the provincial veterinarians in on several occasions to help these animals because they come in on the trucks and trailers and they’re so cold they’re shivering,” he said.

“The horsemen here at the racetrack in Fredericton are providing them with blankets and coolers with things to warm them up to stop them from shaking.”

The animals’ owners are working with about 15 volunteers to ensure the animals are fed, comfortable and cared for during their stay at the exhibition grounds.

The grounds have plenty of room to house livestock of all shapes and sizes: for 190 years, they’ve hosted the New Brunswick Provincial Exhibition, an annual event showcasing local agriculture, farm animals and amusement park rides.

Brent Dunphy, a local dairy farmer and board member of the Fredericton Exhibition, said the animals have adjusted well to their sudden relocation.

He said he’s impressed by the outpouring of assistance from the community, saying a local 4-H club showed up Saturday to help clean up the cattle barn, and other organizations have stepped in with donations.

“All the local businesses are donating food, and anything we need: forks, brooms, bale feeders,” he said. “It’s unbelievable, the amount of support that’s been given out here.”

The ongoing floods were only made worse Friday and Saturday by heavy winds. Miles said he saw the fierce gusts knocking down power poles and whipping up waves a meter tall.

He said it could take weeks before some of the animals are able to return home, since he expects some farms will need quite a bit of cleanup and repair after the extensive damage caused by water and wind.

“It’s tearing up their fences, and moving the barns, and the water is hitting up against the screen doors and the first floors of their homes,” he said.

Alex Cooke, The Canadian Press