Farmers report gate opening mischief
HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP — Some mischievous person or persons have been creating problems among Hopewell Township and west Jersey livestock farmers, going around in the middle of the night and opening locked pasture gates.
Charlie and Lucia Stout Huebner run Beech Tree Farms, a 58-acre pasture-raised beef cattle operation on Crusher Road and they lease some other land nearby.
“About a month ago we had these Sunday customers coming to see us in the morning,” Lucia Huebner said in mid-June. “They came down to the store and told us your front gate is wide open. We found about 10 of our moms running down Crusher Road right in front of our farm, on the side of the field, so a bunch of us got behind them and herded them back into the pasture.”
Huebner said soon after that, she saw a social media post of a nearby farm that someone opened a gate at their farm, too.
On a leased farm in Ringoes, the Huebners had the same problem.
“We’ve been keeping our Devon bull up on leased land in Ringoes, and one of our tenants showed us pictures of the gate wide open and the bull was gone,” Lucia said. “Charlie went over there and located the bull but couldn’t get him to go on the trailer, so we brought two dams over there to attract him back to the pasture. You can’t herd a bull with just one person, but the bull was scared, it’s terrible for the animals when this happens. It’s very stressful for them, and so we spent all afternoon getting the bull back in on June 12.”
The bull got out again that same week, Lucia said, “but luckily a neighbor is a knowledgeable horse woman and so she helped us.”
Lucia said the farms have alerted the Hopwell Township police as well as county agricultural authorities.
“We know that something is going on we’re trying to figure out who it is that’s running around at night opening up these gates,” Lucia said.
In each case, a police report was filed, Lucia said, and noted it would be good if hunters’ cameras in the area could catch these perpetrators on camera, but so far, no images have been forthcoming.
“Believe me, when you wake up and you see an open gate and you know your animals have gotten out, it is not a good feeling. It’s really tough when you have to round up your friends to help get the animals back into the pasture.”
In Middlesex County, cattle farmer Tom O’ Donnell reported finding medical waste, gloves and gowns, on his property over the winter, but the gates to his cow and goat and sheep pastures are double-locked. In spite of this, he said he’s had some goats escape and had to pay fines to the township of Cranbury.
The last time Huebner could recall anything like this happening was years ago, when she learned that George Rude at Griggs Farm in Franklin Township, Somerset County, had one of his gates opened and lost hundreds of poultry birds.