The arrival of Abner and Elinor and musings about rescue

With a cute video of cow zoomies!!!

On Monday, we greeted two new calves, born twins on June 28th, into our family on Locket’s Meadow. Their names are Abner and Elinor and they are beautiful, sweet, gentle, affectionate and very clever. 

Every time we get a calf I worry. Calves, particularly those rescued from the dairy industry, are some of the trickiest animals to keep alive and I always assume they will get sick within the first two days. The problem is, mama cows deliver their babies and are only allowed to be with them for a matter of hours; after that, babies are fed milk replacer from a bottle. If they don’t get enough colostrum from their mamas in that initial period of time they are plum out of luck, as they won’t have the immunity to fight off infection and will die.  In this industry that doesn’t matter as so many babies are produced in a year that they are expendable, particularly the bull calves who are sent off to be fattened for veal. (They are so worthless to dairy producers that they can be purchased for as little as five bucks.) These calves are so fragile and susceptible to disease that I can’t imagine a very large percentage of them survive to be slaughtered (you could spend hours debating the merits of each pathway to death, but really . . . come on . . . ugh . . .) yet without having babies there can be no milk production, and so the industry marches on . . .

The dairy farm that has given us some of our calves isn’t much different in most ways . . . however . . . over their past few years of placing bull calves as pets they have learned a few things. They now vaccinate them against many diseases and try to make sure they get enough colostrum from the mamas before they are separated. (They told us about one calf who did not nurse at all from his mother so we got him before he was two days old and our vet gave him a transfusion to save his life.)  The biggest difference between this dairy farm and others, of course, is that they will go to the trouble of carefully placing a calf, which most other farms won’t do. Like, I don’t know of any others, but if you do, please let me know!

It ain’t perfect, but it’s progressive, and it’s a nod towards the inherent value of their lives as sentient beings. I will take any and all progress as I have been in the rescue business a long time and have seen massive strides that I never would have believed 40 years ago!

But back to Elinor and Abner. They arrived on Monday. By Tuesday afternoon Abner had a temp of 104 (I was instantly texting with our vet, the sure-to-be-sainted-despite-being-Jewish Dr. Cait Macintosh of Beckett and Associates,) and within minutes was able to begin treatment.  Elinor also had a brewing temp so we treated her, as well. On Wednesday, when I went to feed the calves their second bottle of the day, Elinor was fussy with the nipple, which was not normal. Her belly looked a little rounded instead of the usual concave, so I snatched the bottle away and started texting Dr. Cait again. Bloat. If you don’t catch it right away it can be fatal, and it’s certainly painful . . . but it was in an early stage and we began treating instantly. Meanwhile, Abner started passing some really runny manure. Oh boy. I texted poop pictures to the saintly Dr. Cait and we added another med and adjusted the concentration of milk powder. Today, instead of being lethargic at the back of their stall, they were at the gate, bellowing for their bottles, happy and bouncy.  Hurrah!! 

I will continue to monitor everything about them because I have seen too may setbacks in my “career.” They will be loved every day of their lives here on Locket’s Meadow because for some reason, Lady Luck smiled upon them and they found safe haven. It’s a little melancholy for me, however, as I can’t help but think about those who don’t get the same chance. The cows, pigs, sheep, chickens . . . all of the animals who would have made devoted family members had a tiny twist of fate brought them to sanctuary. They are all deserving. 

I don’t know the answer, and even if I did, I don’t posses the kind of magnetic personality that could bring about huge change for the animals. At best, I will keep rescuing them as often as I can, and as time allows, show you their lives as part of this huge family here on our farm. If they reach out and touch you in some way so you decide to alter your life to be kinder to domesticated animals through changing your diet, volunteering, activism or whatever, then hoorah! Humanity may finally become a little more humane, to the animals and to each other.

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