Monday, July 12, 2021

Vermont dairy farmers cows harmed by wire

Scott and Amber Hoyt of Tunbridge, Vermont, are fighting a losing battle with wire they believe was left in their fields by a company installing fibre-optic telecommunications cable.

Since December, the Hoyts have pulled the wire from the bodies of three cows that recently died after showing symptoms the farmers hadn’t seen before: sudden bloody noses, a high number of aborted calves, obvious signs of discomfort, a decline in milk production.

Last fall, the Hoyts found the wire scattered throughout the cows’ feed, which they grew on their land and other fields they rent in the rolling hills of Tunbridge.

As the weather cooled and the Hoyts transitioned the cows out of pasture, they began feeding the animals silage, which they make by layering chopped hay from several different fields in a bunker.

“We started finding a piece [of wire] here and there,” Amber said. “Then it turned into multiple pieces a day. That’s when we started reaching out to people.”

They said it’s lashing wire used to tie bundles of cables. It’s thin and stainless steel and they think it was chopped into bits by their silage harvester.

It wire like a holds lines together between telephone poles.

The Hoyts began finding coils of lashing wire in locations around the farm. ECFiber, a communication district that serves the Upper Valley, had recently hired Brookfield-based Eustis Cable Enterprises for a project to expand broadband in Tunbridge, and Eustis had employed a subcontractor to install the lines that run through the Hoyts’ fields.

The Hoyts believe the subcontractor left behind the spools in the field, and when the farmers mowed to harvest the feed, the self-propelled chopper plowed through the wire, cutting it into pieces and mixing it in.

They said they can’t afford to plow their crops under to get rid of the wires.