It’s a bizarre custody battle that has plenty of sizzle — and a lot at stake.
A large herd of cattle is in the middle of a nasty beef between a Manitoba farmer and his former mistress, according to court documents obtained by the Free Press.
The civil case is now in the early stages but already has enough twists and turns to fill a prime-time television drama.
Just call it Graze Anatomy.
"The background is unusual. The (farmer) lived a double life," the Manitoba Court of Appeal wrote in a decision earlier this month. "For part of the year, he lived on his farm in The Pas with his wife. For the rest of the year, he lived with (his mistress), first in The Pas and later in Minitonas."
And that’s when the cow pies started to hit the fan.
While living in Minitonas, the farmer would tend to a cattle herd on a farm property originally owned by his mistress, but later jointly owned by both of them.
"This arrangement went on for several years. The herd grew. The (mistress) branded some of the cattle with her brand. When the relationship ended acrimoniously, the (farmer) took the entire herd back to his farm in The Pas," the Appeal Court wrote in its decision.
That didn’t sit well with the scorned mistress, who immediately went to court seeking to have her cows come home. She claims she’s entitled to an equal share because they are property as a result of a common-law relationship.
But the farmer disagrees, saying he has "no family-law property obligations" to the woman now their secret relationship is out in the open and over.
"He asserts this was a long-term, extra-marital affair," the Appeal Court wrote.
A trial is now pending to determine whether that relationship meets the criteria of a common-law partnership, which would determine how any assets would be divided.
However, an interim order was recently granted to the woman, ordering the farmer to return all her branded cattle, including the cattle’s offspring, while the matter is before the courts.
To date, he has refused, and the mistress has asked the court to find him in contempt of the judicial order.
That is now a moot point, as the Appeal Court overturned the interim order last week in favour of the farmer. The Appeal Court has essentially ruled the judge erred in putting the cart before the horse, making the preliminary ruling before the case proceeds to a trial.
So all the cows will remain at the farmer’s residence in The Pas. It’s not clear if his wife is still by his side or whether she has put their marriage out to pasture after finding out about the affair.