100 cows swept away by floodwaters in Rutherford County return home

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Lascassas farmer is counting his blessings after nearly all of his livestock was swept away by flash flooding last week, then recovered with the help of his community. 

In his decades of farming, Mike Vaught had never heard of floodwaters powerful enough to move cattle, which, on average, weigh more than 1,000 pounds. However, on Thursday, May 9, Vaught said his creek rose more quickly than he’d ever seen before.  

“A friend calls me at two after six, I went back and checked, and by seven after six, I had cows going under the bridge,” Vaught said. 

Houston Dorris has worked on Vaught’s farm for years and jumped in to help the moment he got the call.  

“You could just see the cows literally floating away in the water,” Dorris remembered. 

In total, Vaught estimated 100 of his cows were taken down Bradley Creek, and some eventually even made their way into the Stones River. At first, he didn’t expect any to survive. 

“I thought I would lose them all, because I figured they’d get hung up in the trees and the pivot that’s along the creek, and within 15 minutes, we were hearing cows calling and went down the road and found a bunch and my wife and I got them in,” Vaught said.  

Vaught’s daughter posted on social media, asking people in the area to be on the lookout for their lost cattle. Then, Vaught started getting calls, and little by little, he was able to round up his cows. With the help of neighbors, Vaught made multiple trips around town to pick up packs of his cattle. 

The last two he recovered on Saturday, May 11 were found nearly 19 miles away, by Interstate 840 and Jefferson Pike. 

Dorris believed the cows were hungry and ready to go home: “They would see me come up to them and I could talk to them, you know, ‘Hey girls,’ that type of deal. You could see them just, like, almost literally calm down and react to how I was reacting to them.” 

Vaught believes all of his mature cattle have been accounted for; however, about six of his calves have not been found. 

Although the cows do appear sore, Vaught said they’re doing extremely well, all things considered: “You feel like you’ve not cared for them properly, you’ve done something wrong, but it was really an act of God that the creek came down, but then God’s hand laid these other people at the right place at the right time, but I couldn’t have done it without neighbors and friends.”

“God is good,” Dorris added.

Vaught recalled raising his cattle from birth, some of which are now 15 years old. On Sunday, May 12, he was grateful to look out his window and see them reunited, grazing on his pasture.