Alexander, Blitzen, and Lawrence: Newborn Calves from Stockyard on Road to Recovery at New York Shelter

There is no question that some of the most dismal scenes unfold at stockyard auctions across the U.S. At these terrible weigh stations for animals being sold by one party and purchased by another – some heading into a life of production, others to slaughter – there isn’t any compassion to be found, and suffering abounds to a staggering degree. Here, labeled with numbers and pushed and prodded into chaotic auction rings for bidding, terrified and confused farm animals of all ages and conditions – from tiny babies to aging adults – are all typically treated in the same callous manner until the sale is over and they go on to meet some equally miserable end.

Since Farm Sanctuary started 25 years ago, we have been rescuing animals from these environments, nursing them to health, and giving them new, better lives – starting with Hilda, the now famous sheep who we lifted from a stockyard dead pile in 1986. Late last year, with the help of members and supporters like you, we rescued Riley – a very sickly and partially blind piglet – from such a place, and, most recently, found three newborn male dairy calves on the brink of death at a large sale being held on one of the most bitterly cold days of winter.

On the day National Shelter Director Susie Coston discovered the calves, she watched truck after truck filled with these baby animals drive up to the auction yard. The newborns, some not even a day old yet, were visibly frenzied and could be heard bawling for their mothers. But while all Susie wanted to do was comfort them, their terror was only met with frustration from the workers who forcefully unloaded and moved them into holding pens by hitting them with canes or shocking them with cattle prods.

The scene turned even grislier when she came across the poor babies who were obviously very ill. She found one – a little calf who couldn’t even stand – collapsed and left freezing in the less than 20 degree weather near a loading dock. The other two she would rescue that day were shoved into the auction ring when the sale began. One was so sick and weak that his legs kept buckling beneath him as workers prodded him to get him on his feet. The other, weighing only 37 pounds, was so small that the bidders made a joke of him – calling him “trash.” Treated with the same indifference as all the others, these little ones were only mocked in their distress and ultimately deemed as being worthless when they failed to sell for even $1.

Stepping in to claim these three sweet babies when no one else would, Susie rushed them to safety and ensured that they immediately began receiving the emergency medical treatment they so desperately needed to have any chance of survival. If she hadn’t shown up, there is no question that these boys would have wound up in a garbage heap or the grip of a renderer, their suffering simply ignored. And if Farm Sanctuary members and supporters like you hadn’t taken immediate action to help us, they would certainly never be where they are today.

As generous donations to the Emergency Rescue Fund came in from compassionate people like you to provide them with the care they needed to have fighting chance at life, the calves, since named Alexander, Blitzen and Lawrence, started on the long road to recovery:

Blitzen, the smallest baby, was initially taken to the Cornell University Hospital for Animals with the other two calves, but since he was very active and alert despite having pneumonia, he was sent home after receiving a physical and having blood drawn. Because he and the other babies were denied the nutrients in their mother’s vital colostrum, they had very low protein levels. As a result, Blitzen’s immunity was low and he later had to return to the hospital for a plasma transfusion to provide him with the antibodies he needed to fight off illness. After this, he was placed on antibiotics, but continued to spike high fevers and was not gaining weight, which caused us great concern. Thankfully, after a third trip to the hospital and a second transfusion, he is finally gaining weight, but we are still keeping a close eye on him to monitor his progress.

Lawrence, the calf who was downed at the auction and the one we were most worried about initially, has surprised us all by rallying and doing the best health-wise out of the three. He finished his treatments for pneumonia earlier this month, and, while he was in renal failure upon arrival at Cornell, the condition was successfully reversed thanks to the intensive care unit there. Test results also showed that Lawrence had salmonella, but that is now under control as well.

Alexander, the largest calf, sadly, had the most health issues of the bunch. Because he did not have the chance to receive colostrum from his mother and received no basic care from humans after birth (his umbilical cord was not treated with iodine to prevent infection), he contracted a severe navel infection that had spread to his leg joints and was treated with IV antibiotics. But after returning home following a course of treatments, Alexander’s condition did not continue to improve, so he returned to the hospital for a critical surgery to remove the infection. During the procedure, the doctors also discovered a bone cyst and chip on one his legs. While Alexander is still at Cornell now, we are very hopeful that he will be able to start enjoying sanctuary life soon.

If it weren’t for the support of friends like you, none of these sweet babies would be receiving the vital care they need to begin new lives and have the chance to just be themselves. Despite all they have been through, the trio remain in good spirits and are exceptionally loving and playful, craving attention from their many admirers at every turn. They are an absolute joy to know, and we hope one day all of you will have the chance to meet the very special calves you helped save.

Together, we are piercing the darkness suffering farm animals endure every day and shining a light on their plight so it might be changed in time with each person we enlighten and each life we touch. We are their only hope, and you have shown that you are there for them. Thank you!

Alexander, Blitzen, Lawrence Farm Animal Rescue