Dairy farmer Chris Baker says he is “hellishly lucky” to have survived a stampede by his 180 cows that left him trampled, unconscious and with broken bones.
The 61-year old Ruawai man has been a dairy farmer for 40 years, and has never before been in such a life threatening situation.
He does admit to being kicked in the chest and elsewhere a few times by cows, “but that’s just day to day farming.”
Baker said he did nothing different or wrong last Tuesday but the freak occurrence could have left him dead. He now has a cautionary tale for anyone working on their own on a farm, and with animals.
“They must be very vigilant.”
Last Tuesday morning, a sudden spooking of cows at the back of the herd caused his 180 cows to stampede through the gate he had just opened and was walking away from. He instantly became aware of the rush but was smashed into and bowled over before he could get out of the way.
“I just went down. I thought, ‘hell, this is it’. Next thing I’m waking up and there wasn’t a cow in sight.
“They’d settled down, walked themselves to the shed and were there waiting for milking.”
The cows had to wait some time.
Baker remembers being knocked to the ground then kicked and stamped on as cows went over the top of him. He rolled into a fetal position, kept his face down and protected his head.
“I could feel myself being kicked. They stood on my neck, my head, their hooves scraping. Each one of those weighs, what, 400 to 500 kilos.”
He thinks the following cows became aware he was on the ground and began to sidestep him. He doesn’t know how long he was out for the count.
He would later learn he had two breaks in one arm, degloving on that arm, broken ribs, bleeding ears, bumps to his skull and lacerations and bruising all over his body.
Baker and his wife Raewyn Dalbeth had been holidaying at Waipu Cove and he went home every day to do the milking, so no-one else was on the farm.
When he “realised I was alive, but hurt,” he reached for his phone, then remembered he’d left it charging in the milking shed on his way to bring in the cows.
He staggered to the quad bike but his twice-broken arm was hanging in an odd way, with the hand needed to start the bike ”dangling uselessly”.
Trying to support that injured right arm, Mr Baker reached across to start the bike with his left hand, then drove down the race to the road where he waved down a neighbour who was driving past. The neighbour took him to a doctor in Dargaville, from where he was sent to Whangarei Hospital.
He now has plates in his arm and, a week after being trampled nearly to death, new aches and bruises are ”coming out every day”. His wife will now have to do the milking for about eight weeks.
“It was her birthday today. I wished her happy birthday before she went off to milk the cows this morning,” Mr Baker chortled yesterday.
Most people who have been trampled by cattle do not live to tell the tale. But he won’t hear a word said against the cows he raised from calves. They are gentle and usually easy to handle — and he does not appreciate people jokingly referring to ”killer cows”, he said.
“But I did say to them the other day, ‘which one of you was it?’ None of them said anything.”