Wild cow issue back in front of supervisors

Des Moines Township resident Mark Wessels show his property boundaries on a map in front of Lee County Supervisors Tuesday. Wessel's is upset at the cattle that are running wild in the area. The animal's owner Gina Cramer is seated at far right. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC


FORT MADISON – It really has become a case of beef on the lamb.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, the owner of cattle that are regularly on the loose in Lee County told supervisors she is working on getting fencing repaired.

Gina Cramer, who lives in Des Moines Township near Montrose, said for more than 30 years there has never been a problem with her farm, that was originally owned by her grandfather.

She said the farm has about 100 head of a cattle, but when pressed by Supervisor Gary Seyb, couldn’t put an exact count on the animals.

Seyb said that’s a critical part of the problem.

“I’ve worked with cattle on family farms and we always new how many cows, bulls and calves we had exactly. The fact that you can’t tell us how many you have is part of the problem here,” Seyb said.

The problem has arisen from what Cramer called the “perfect storm” over the past couple of years where wind storms have knocked down branches and trees that have damaged fencing and she can’t get caught up with repairs.

Wessel said he’s run the fenceline himself and made repairs to his part of the fence and the Cramer’s part of the fence, but has seen such provincial efforts as “Wal-Mart” bags stretched between fence posts to try and keep bulls and cattle contained.

He said he’s had instances of cattle wrecking his CRP food plots and hunting grounds for years and it has to stop. He’s also seen cattle, including bulls, running through his property and up close to his house.

“I have a place and I like my place. If I wanted cattle there, I’d own cattle. It’s very distracting when you go to get the mail and there’s cattle poop all over the driveway, or hearing and seeing cattle go running through the yard,” he said.

Wessel said he never leaves his property without a sidearm out of fear of encountering a wild bull in the area.

“I haven’t had that happen yet, but I can see it happening.”

Iowa code requires fence owners in Iowa townships to share fencing responsibility and the shared fencing must be at least the same caliber of fencing by both property owners.

Lee County Attorney Ross Braden said he’s had ongoing conversations with Cramer about the issue of the loose cattle and said today’s conversation is the same information he’s been hearing.

He said upon notification the county could go in an erect a fence along the property that is sufficient to keep the animals contained and assess the cost to Cramer. He added that the county could, if the issue continues to be a problem go into the area and take custody of the cattle and charge the owners per day for holding them.

Cramer said she believes all the animals have now been accounted for, but Wessel said he’s encountered them in the last several days.

Seyb again pressed Cramer as to how many cattle she currently has in containment and Cramer couldn’t give a specific answer.

“It’s about a 100 head, but it could be 98 or 99. Sometimes you can’t see a calf that may be hidden from view, but that’s probably within two or three.”

Cramer said she only has six bulls, but Wessel said his encounters with the cattle show that about 30% are bulls.

“I’ve worked with steer and cattle and I know what a bull is. And I would say 30% of that wild herd is bulls. They may be you calves or young and just learning, but those are bulls.”

Supervisor Rich Harlow asked all the parties to attend the meeting and speak during public discussion. Harlow asked that the two keep open lines of communication with the county.

Supervisor Chair Matt Pflug said Braden outlined things pretty clearly and Cramer needs to get her cattle on her own property and secure the fence or the county would have no choice to take action.

In other action, the board:
• heard an update from the Iowa Municipalities Worker’s Compensation Association on the county’s progress on worker’s comp rates. The county is saving about $50,000 compared to it’s rates six years ago.
• heard an update on the county’s property insurance renewal from John Little with EMS insurance, to include the new property obtained in the acquisition of Lee County Ambulance.

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