Cownapping soap opera continues


SALEM, Ohio – Conflicting reports about an Ontario-to-Ohio cownapping have left a tangled mess of questions for the animal’s owners.

One report says Donnek Pearl Skychief, the cow reportedly ‘cownapped’ from a farm in Woodstock, Ontario, and smuggled into Ohio in January, was apparently never pregnant.

Another says the Holstein was taken to Ohio State University’s veterinary hospital for a Caesarean section to remove a nearly full-term dead calf.

Yet another report says the cow gave birth to a healthy heifer calf.

The pregnancy is at the heart of the international dispute.

Disagree. Co-owners Chris Nelson of Urbana, Ohio, and John Martin of Woodstock, Ontario, disagreed on where the cow should have been housed as she neared freshening.

Pearl was allegedly due to freshen in mid-February.

Since her mysterious appearance at the Nelson’s Ohio farm in January, the cow has been off the premises only for a trip to Ohio State for a pregnancy test early in February, according to officials at the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

She remains quarantined on Nelson’s farm.

Chris Nelson repeatedly refused to comment to Farm and Dairy.

University officials have not responded to repeated requests for information related to Pearl’s care by the university veterinary hospital.

Veterinary hospital director Richard Bednarski refused to confirm or deny any of the rumors.

The Wall Street Journal reported in its Feb. 12 issue, however, that Ohio State University veterinarian David Anderson “confirmed … by ultrasound that Pearl is no longer pregnant.”

A trip to Canada. Nelson bought Pearl from Martin in 2000 for $65,000 but sold a share back to him when the cow would not conceive.

The cow was shipped to Martin’s farm in Ontario a year ago for breeding help and reportedly became pregnant through artificial insemination.

Martin denied Nelson’s demands to return the cow, citing the cow’s health as a reason to avoid shipping stress.

The 6-year-old cow hadn’t calved for two years.

In September, Nelson and his wife, Joyce, showed up at the Canadian farm and demanded to check the cow for pregnancy themselves.

According to Martin, the couple checked the cow and left his farm, also believing she was bred.

The Ohioans filed a lawsuit in a Canadian court in December claiming full ownership and seeking possession, but the judge ruled the cow should stay with the Martins.

The cow disappeared in January.

Her dis-appearance. The day before the cow disappeared from Martin’s barn, “she was starting to spring up, make a bit of udder,” Martin said.

“She was a large cow to begin with, but she was so big then that I was worried that maybe there were twins,” Martin said, noting he never had a doubt the cow was pregnant.

The farm’s veterinarian had also performed routine pregnancy checks on the cow at least through early September with positive findings, Martin said.

Another story. Connections in Ohio have told Martin that the university performed the Caesarean section Feb. 20 and removed a dead heifer calf.

The calf had apparently been dead for about a month, according to information Martin received.

Rumor mill. Confused by conflicting stories and not knowing what to believe, Martin is only sure of one thing.

“Even after [Nelson] says she had a dead calf or no calf or whatever, I really don’t want her back. It’s like a truck that’s been in a bad accident. She’s damaged goods,” he said of his former champion.

Nelson is actually the loser here, Martin figures. The cow doesn’t hold much value anymore and the Ohioan is stuck making payments to the bank.

“He got what he deserved. But I sure feel bad for this cow,” Martin said.

Pearl’s was supreme, senior and grand champion at the 2001 Mid East Spring National Holstein Show and reserve grand champion at the 2000 World Dairy Expo.

The cow was also ranked No. 62 in Canada’s Top 100 cows for conformation in November 2002.

Several issues. As for the current investigation, Ohio Department of Agriculture officials are looking into several issues including ownership and border issues.

“Every new twist adds a new dimension to the investigation,” said Melanie Wilt, department spokesperson.

Animals imported from Canada are required to show proof of a health certificate when entering the country, according to Jim Rogers, a spokesperson for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Nelson allegedly did not have the proper paperwork to move the animal.

The USDA investigation continues.

(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at


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