OKEECHOBEE COUNTY, Fla. - An extensive roundup saved hundreds of cows and their calves Friday morning in Okeechobee County.
"It means so much to us that so many people cared enough to come help," said Austin Alderman, of Alderman-Deloney Ranch.
16 cowboys and cowgirls on horseback herded the cows for miles through the flooded Alderman-Deloney Ranch, owned by Jim Alderman, a former judge for the Florida Supreme Court.
"The judge was in pretty bad trouble. He stood to lose a lot of his cattle if he didn't take them somewhere," said Al Scott, better known as Bub, who owns Triple S Ranch, where the cows will now stay.
Once the cows were out of the flooding, they shut down several miles of Orange Avenue in Okeechobee County as nearly 20 cowboys and cowgirls continued to guide them on the street toward Triple S Ranch.
"It was a success," said Matt Pearce, first vice president of the Florida Cattleman Association. "We didn’t lose anything. We didn’t hurt anybody and we got them on dry ground."
The cows had been living on shrinking strips of dry land the past few days due to extensive flooding on Alderman-Deloney Ranch, which worsened when a dike surrounding the property broke.
“If the cattle stay where they are, eventually they’ll die,” said Jim Alderman.
Chopper 5 flew over dead cows as well as trapped cows and calves Thursday.
Austin Alderman said at least two cows and three calves have died.
"To lose them in such a senseless manner, it’s bothersome," he said.
Jim Alderman said the dike around his ranch, which helps deflect water because the land to the west is 10 feet higher, broke a few days ago following heavy rainfall from Hurricane Irma.
He said the last time the dike broke was in 2004, but there was even more water pouring into his ranch this time.
“It just was an extraordinary thing that we had over 20 inches of rain and all that water coming down and pressure against the dike caused it to break,” he said.
He said the owner of Triple S Ranch a few miles down the road offered to host the cows until his ranch dries out.
“He actually contacted me and volunteered which was very neighborly,” Jim Alderman said.
"We help each other out," Bub said. "He would’ve done the same for us."
People began rounding up the cows Thursday using airboats.
Trailers picked up the calves and brought them to the dry ranch Friday morning.
The calves and their mothers now have to find each other in their temporary home.
"They’ll find these babies," Pearce said. "The best thing we can do is leave them alone and come back and check on them."
It's currently birthing season for the cows.
"Some of them have had a really rough couple of days of their lives but hopefully things are a little easier from here on out," Austin Alderman said.
One cow gave birth to a calf shortly after arriving at Triple S Ranch.
Jim and Austin Alderman said they're thankful for the community’s help.
"It means so much to us that so many people cared enough to come help," Austin Alderman said. "They’re all good people. People that really touched our hearts and it means a lot that they helped when we needed it the most."
He estimates the cows will stay at Triple S Ranch for months, while their home dries out and the vegetation grows back.