Search This Blog

Follow by Email

Thursday, March 15, 2012

He who shall not be named shall not be veal

In January all four of our cows calved. Betty had Adam (Lambert, due to his eyeliner), Mocha had Coffee and Julie had Coco. When it became apparent that Ginger's bull calf was not going to suckle, I decided not to name him. The Farmer was able to steal some colostrum from Ginger (although she was not a willing donor) and a bit more from Betty to feed the weak calf. I mixed up some milk replacer and fed him a bottle. At first he needed a lot of coaxing and it took a few days before he would drink a bottle on his own, without me holding it.

Eventually he was trained on the bottle that was strapped to the side of the pen. It was obvious after a few weeks that the little calf had no idea why his mother was even there, except for company. The lambing pen was crowded and Ginger accidentally stepped on him a couple of times, injuring his foot. She didn't want us near her calf and became quite aggressive. We decided to turn her out. We tried letting the calf out as well but he was totally lost and bewildered outside in the sunshine and couldn't find his milk bottle where I had strapped it to the wall. Young Angus the bull kept knocking the bottle down as well, so that operation was a total failure. Back into the barn with the bull calf.

For the past month the calf has done very well on his own in the barn. He has had 4 litres of milk replacer in the morning and 4 more at night. His rumen has developed on schedule and he is beginning to nibble sweet feed and hay. We leave one small light on at night so that he isn't frightened in the dark. When the cows outside are mooing, he stops chewing to listen. Sometimes he answers them.

A few weeks ago the Farmer pointed out how much we were spending on milk replacer for this one calf. It just didn't make good farming business sense. He suggested we consider selling the calf, rather than keeping it alive on expensive milk. I had visions of my calf going to some other farm where he would fail miserably and very quickly be turned into veal. I always want my animals to have comfortable lives while they are with us.

The males are usually around for just under a year but at least I know their time with us is good. I am assured that when they leave here they go somewhere to be fattened up and then they enter a process that is completely humane, before they finally become meat on someone's plate.

I'm okay with the practice of raising cattle for meat. But I am rather attached to this little calf and I don't want him to be sent somewhere scary. He trusts us. He springs up from his hay bed when he sees me approach with his bottles. He allows me to rub his chin and scratch his ears while he feeds.

I don't want him going some place where he might not be treated gently. Even when we rent the bull out to another farmer we ask that he be treated with care. That is why he is now hooked on sweet feed and apples. Our animals are given respect and consideration for their sometimes delicate, sensitive nature.

And so I bought another $70 bag of milk replacer. We have cut him down to just 4 litres a day, because he is eating more solid food. It is getting warmer now and the days are getting longer. Soon he will be turned outside, to enjoy the springtime sun and fresh new grass shooting up from the earth.

He who shall not be named deserves that. I want to see him run and jump and play with the other calves out in the pasture. I want to see him following the herd out on the beaten diagonal path to the shady spot where they lie in the summer. He deserves the same peaceful, bucolic existence as the rest of our animals.

At least until it is time for him to go on that last long trailer ride into the sunset.

No comments: