Local News

More Details in Finding of Missing Calf

(La Porte County, IN) - A bull calf scared by dogs barking ran into an Indiana corn field where he spent nine hours before being located by a drone equipped with a heat-sensing camera.


Farmer Scott Klemz is now getting the 250-pound bull calf used to the sound of barking dogs and human contact to prevent another high-tech needle in a haystack-like search.


Klemz said the animal was one of three calves he had just brought to his 80-acre farm near Union Mills on July 31.


The animals were from his other farm about five miles away, where he breeds about a dozen cows to have calves for his 14-year-old son and other children in the 4-H program to raise and show during the LaPorte County Fair.


Klemz said his Border collie and St. Bernard were playfully barking when the Hereford calf, fresh off a cattle trailer, bolted out of its pen about 25 feet from the dogs. The calf ran several hundred yards down 800 South and into a neighbor's 20-acre corn field.


According to LaPorte County Police, officers soon came out with a drone equipped with an infrared camera but failed in their initial attempt to locate the animal.


The drone traveled close to 3,000 feet at more than 200 feet above the ground, but the high temperatures kept the heat sensing camera from detecting the calf's body temperature.


“It was a hot day, so everything was kind of blending in,” Klemz said.

Klemz said he then began playing a prerecorded soundtrack of a cow mooing over a loudspeaker placed beside the field in hopes of drawing the cow out of the corn. The calf, though, never came out.


The officers returned about 9 p.m. after the temperatures had dropped, and within minutes, the drone's heat-sensing camera located the calf in the rows of corn near a tree line.


“Once they came back when everything cooled off, and the calf was much warmer than the ground, he stuck out like a sore thumb,” Klemz said.

Klemz said the calf was also moving toward the loudspeaker when picked up by the infrared device.


“You could tell he must have been hearing the sounds and was moving in the right direction,” Klemz said.

Klemz said he and his son, Samuel, entered the field, and after several failed attempts to grab him, the fleet-footed calf was finally wrestled to the ground.


“The calf took off and basically ran right into me,” Klemz said.

A halter was placed on the calf, then led back to the farm.


“[The calf] was probably a little thirsty but other than that, he was in good shape,” Klemz said.

Without the drone, Klemz said he's not sure how long it would have taken to locate the calf, apparently too small to leave any marks in the dirt or rows of corn to follow.


“Usually, if you get a 1,400 or 1,500-pound cow, you’ll be able to see the hoof prints, but you couldn’t see nothing with him. We had no idea where to even look,” Klemz explained.

Klemz had also bred cows to have calves for his older children to show when they were young enough to be in 4-H. He's had other spooked calves run away in the past, but he never had one disappear into a corn field.


Klemz said he now takes one of his dogs with him when he checks on the calves, so they get used to the barking. His son also sits on a chair in the pen daily to let the calves come up to him to ensure humans do not spook them.


Klemz, a Noble Township Volunteer Fire Department member, said the drone was a learning experience for him to apply if he's ever called to help locate a person lost in a corn field.


“It was very, very interesting,” Klemz said.

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