To the dairy farmers who bred her, she was disposable. To the workers at the stockyard where she was brought for auction, she was negligible. To her new family at Farm Sanctuary, however, Fanny is precious.
When dairy calves are taken from their mothers shortly after birth, the mother cow not only suffers the loss of her baby, she continues to suffer through milk production leading to an early death. Dairy cows spend their short lives in an unrelenting cycle of impregnation and lactation until, at about three or four years of age, they are deemed “spent” and sent to be slaughtered for ground beef or pet food. Fanny was headed toward that fate when we encountered her at the stockyard. In addition to the rigors of milk production, she had clearly endured egregious neglect. Her horribly overgrown hooves made every step excruciating, and her legs buckled under the weight of her enormous udders. Instead of trying to help her, stockyard workers hit Fanny with wooden poles to force her to move.
As soon as we could gain access to Fanny, we brought her immediately to Cornell – where, we assumed, she would need to be euthanized. Veterinarians determined that, in addition to the pain in her feet from lack of hoof care and years spent on concrete floors, Fanny was also severely dehydrated and suffering from milk fever. Despite her ailments, however, Fanny revived with treatment. Within hours, her eyes were brighter and by the next day she was standing on her own and greeted us with a loud moo.
Soon she was recuperating at our New York Shelter. Though Fanny will always have arthritis, the thick, fresh bedding in her barn now keeps her comfortable. She was immediately eager to mingle with her new friends, but had to be separated from the other cattle while our caregivers continued her treatment. During that time, she would call out to her future herd mates over the fence. When she was finally able to join our special needs herd, she could not have been more excited. Now, as we watch Fanny trotting through her new pasture, we witness a little of the youth that was stolen from her return to her bright eyes and confident steps.
Footage of Fanny’s rescue can be viewed in the upcoming documentary, Ghosts in Our Machine. To see a preview, click here.