It was a typical Friday, June 2, 2017, at a large commercial dairy as numbers of calves were born and immediately taken from their devoted, grieving mothers who have carried them for almost a year.
The batch of newborn calves was quickly fed or force-fed pre-gathered colostrum which is the first milk from lactating female cows. Colostrum contains crucial anitibodies that are the calves’ only defense against disease, sickness and death. It can only be absorbed in the first hours after birth to be effective. The amount of time given by dairy personnel to each calf to consume large amounts of it varies widely and has a direct impact on their health and survival.
After receiving the colostrum, a hole was punched through each calf’s ear to attach an ear tag with its date of birth. The calves were housed in plastic outdoor hutches on straw where there is only room to stand up or lay down. Depending on our spring weather, they are forced to endure cold nights and hot days and many spend months in their confined factory farm stalls until sold mainly to meat buyers.