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 antibodies 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.
On Saturday morning, Precious Life Animal Sanctuary Founder accompanied by a volunteer went to the dairy and observed the rows of day-old and two- to three-day old calves. One was smaller and more frail-looking than the rest. He was purchased knowing full well from past experience he might not make it and the reality of potential expensive vet bills to try to save his life. He was picked up from his cage with his broken long umbilical cord dangling next to his side and placed in our van.
Once home, he was severely stressed from all the events of his unnatural life and put in a large shed on a bed of fresh straw with heat lamps during the night and access to outdoors during the day. After a few hours, he was given milk, refused to drink it or stand up.
On Sunday, after aggressive attempts to force-feed him, he refused to drink and was becoming dehydrated. On Monday morning, he was forced to stand up, backed in a corner and straddled with both legs behind his neck and force fed by massaging his jaws. Finally, he began to suck the bottle in spurts and it is becoming easier. The next few weeks will determine if this innocent, shiny black and white spirit numbered 532 will make it or succumb to uncontrolled diarrhea or some other health problem which is the demise of many calves given his background.
Time will tell and we will keep you posted on how he is doing.
“We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites, passions and organs with our own, and fill the slaughterhouses daily with screams of pain and fear.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson