Sometimes all it takes is a little health-mandated bed rest, and a TV, to spark an idea that can lead to the creation of something that truly fills a need for the community.
Such a circumstance happened to Bill Blemke not long ago.
"I had a health issue and I was lying in a hospital bed and watching these animal rescue shows and I see horses, hogs, turkeys, turtles, eagles - God bless the raptor center in Antigo - but I never saw a cow," Blemke said.
His curiosity sparked, Blemke decided to look a little deeper.
"I started investigating and found the problem: you can't deal with just one (cow), you've got to deal with 10, 20, 30, 40 of them at a time and nobody wants to do that," Blemke said. "The Sheriff's Department, for example, will surrender a herd from a farmer and then call all these other farmers and try to spread them around. What happens, now that all these farmers are so high-tech, they don't want one of these cows coming into the barn because they don't know if it's sick or not. What happens to the animal then? They end up euthanizing it."
After deciding that something had to be done, Blemke started work on creating Cattle Rescue, Inc., which will be located in Irma.
The facility will be a sanctuary for mistreated and malnourished cattle as they are rehabilitated.
"We're going to work with local law enforcement and farmers to help mistreated and malnourished cattle," Blemke said. "The problem is, with the humane society - and we're not a humane society - is they work with one dog or one cat, but with cattle, you're talking about working with 10, 20, 30, 40 cows at one time. They're large animals so nobody really wants to mess with that because it's a headache. If they can't market the animals, they just end up euthanizing them."
Blemke said he hopes to have the whole operation up and running this summer. He still needs more funding, but said with the support he's received already, he doesn't expect that to be a problem.
"Between now and May 1, we want to raise $500,000 so that the facility will be up and in full operation by July 1," Blemke said. "It's a state-of-the-art facility, up to all state codes and everything. There is no cattle rescue facility in the state of Wisconsin of this magnitude. Then, in a year-and-a-half, we plan to be completely self-sufficient, but it will still be a nonprofit organization so the public will be able to keep tabs on us."
It's not just area cattle that Blemke hopes to help in this endeavor, however. He said he's also going to be implementing practices within the facility to make sure it can give back to the community whenever possible.
"Say we get a herd of cattle and one of them is a healthy cow or steer or whatever, if it's not a marketable item, we're going to get it processed into hamburger and donate that back to Oneida County's food pantries," Blemke said. "Any animal that is healthy but won't fit into the marketplace so to speak, instead of shopping it to some stockyard, we're going to process it and put it into the local food pantries. We're trying to set it up so it's a win-win for the public."
There's also a spot for students at the new facility.
"We're going to utilize kids from the local high schools to work with us for school credit," Blemke said. "That way they can come out and work at the facility or around the facility and then they get credit for that. I'm in the process of getting that all set up now, so we're not only helping the animals, but students as well."
To ensure that no child is left behind, Blemke said he is also taking steps to make sure every child that wants to come and help out is able to do so.
"We're going to have it all be handicap-accessible so that if one of the kids is in a wheelchair or something, they can help feed the calves or something like that," Blemke said. "We're not going to put them in with the big cows or anything like that, but they can sweep the floor or help us with stuff outside. We want to make sure that everyone who wants to get involved has that opportunity."
To learn more, make a donation, or inquire about volunteering, call Blemke at (715) 218-7478 or email him at email@example.com.
"People can call me for a personal one-on-one thing to get more information or to get involved or they can email us or they can certainly feel free to send a check to the Cattle Rescue," Blemke said. "They can also go to any Associated Bank to make a donation. We're set up with Associated Bank statewide."
As for volunteers, Blemke said he is currently making a list with all the names of people who have come forward saying they want to help. Once the facility is ready to open, Blemke said he will personally be calling the people on the list to see if they are still interested in helping out before setting up a more concrete schedule.
Marcus Nesemann may be reached at marcus@river newsonline.com.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce