In the dairy industry, calves are separated from their mothers mere hours or days after their birth. The female calves may eventually enter the herd as replacements for those cows who can no longer be used as milk producers. But what happens to the male calves?
Usually, they are sent to feedlots to be fattened for slaughter, ending up as steak and hamburger on our tables. Sometimes, they are sent to the auction as babies only days old. That’s Blitzen’s story.
The people who were selling Blitzen thought he was a joke. He was tiny, emaciated, and certainly wouldn’t bring much at auction. Although some calves sell for as much as $50, many others go for under $1. Was that to be Blitzen’s fate?
Fortunately for the little calf, someone saw much more that an afternoon’s meal in him. Susie Coston, national shelter director for Farm Sanctuary, decided this little guy deserved a better chance and so she rescued him. Along with Blitzen, she also took two other calves home that day. Alexander and Lawrence were two black and white calves that joined Blitzen in the truck that would deliver them to Farm Sanctuary, an organization that operates three rescues, two in California and one in New York.
When calves are taken to auction, it is not unusual for them to not have received colostrum, that most important “first milk” that protects the newborn from disease. They are often dehydrated and sick, and unless steps are immediately taken to treat them, they may die before they can even begin to live. If they are too weak to even stand up, they are called “downers.”
Coston knew the chances were slim for these three, sickly calves, so she rushed them to Nemo Farm Animal Hospital at Cornell University. After several weeks there, the three little ones were ready to go home to Farm Sanctuary, where they would be taken care of, loved, and allowed to be cows. Just cows.
They had grass to eat and play in, other calves to play with, and plenty of good food and warm milk to help them grow. After six years, they were strong, healthy cows. Sadly, Lawrence passed away from complications stemming all the way back to when he was separated from his mom. But Alexander and Blitzen have grown into happy friends who are now inseparable. See their whole story in this video!