Poorly-maintained bridge causes loss of prize breeding cow

By FRANK MACDONALD*

INVERNESS -- Carl Ross, a beef farmer in Portree, lost a prize breeding bull this week, and the loss is attributed to a poorly-maintained bridge in Portree.

The Limousin bull, valued at $2,000, had to be put down after a jolting bump on the bridge caused the animal's weight to break the floorboards of the trailer in which it was being hauled. As a result the bull's leg was broken, and it had to be destroyed.

The incident, which occurred on Sunday, is the most serious event on a bridge that had residents calling for better department of transportation (DoT) maintenance for years now.

Ross's bull was being trucked to George's River by a beef farmer from there who came to Portree to pick the bull up to breed his stock.

"He came up the west side of the river," Ross explains, "so he wouldn't know about the bridge. It was going back the other side that he hit that bump. The jar caused the bull's weight to break the planking. His hoof went through and his leg was broken."

What upsets Ross most is that he and others from the community have reported the need for repairs several times in the past few years but the DoT efforts have been insufficient.

"There was a crew working their this spring," Ross said, "and my son came along and told them that if they dumped their whole load of asphalt in the hole it would almost be enough. They said, no, this load had to last us all day."

The problem, Ross speculates, is that the gravel at the bottom of the long-existing hole has been sifting away into the river, undermining efforts to patch the hole.

"It's not just me. Neighbours have been calling, as well. It just doesn't do any good," Ross said. This winter, he adds, the snowplow broke the guardrail at the bridge, and the rail continues to just hang out there in the middle of nowhere. "It's July, and nothing's been done yet."

This past winter, in a blizzard, snow piled on the roof of Ross's barn, causing it to collapse with 21 head of cattle inside. He was able to free every one of them without a single animal being injured. The bull wasn't nearly as fortunate on the poorly-maintained Portree bridge.

*Frank MacDonald is editor of the The Inverness Oran in which this article was first published, 28 July 2004.



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