A calf enters the world in an incredibly vulnerable state. He receives his first antibodies from his mother, not in the womb, but only after he has nursed from her and consumed a substance called colostrum, which her body produces just for that first meal. These nutrients are crucial, and, without his mother’s help, the fragile newborn faces disease and death. It was in this tenuous condition that Ari was found.
Ari was born at a “cull sale.” Dairy cows, who produce milk only when they have been impregnated, are subjected to a relentless cycle of gestation, birth, and insemination until their bodies are worn out. At four or five years old, these “spent” cows are brought to auction and sold for cheap beef, often limping in pain from hip bones that have begun to deteriorate and overgrown hooves that have never been trimmed. They are frequently suffering from a variety of other health issues, as well.
Ari’s mother gave birth in one such sale house. Workers promptly drove her to the auction floor before she even had a chance to clean her newborn. Ari, only minutes old, was left on the floor to die.
This situation is common. Many cows are pregnant when they are taken to cull sales, and some give birth there. In Ari’s case, however, an uncommon act of kindness prevented a grim outcome that day.
As auction workers went about their business, a kind woman noticed a small, black-and-white form crumpled on the floor. When she came closer to investigate, she discovered it was a calf, feeble and still covered in afterbirth. Knowing he could not survive without help, she immediately took him home and made two urgent phone calls — one to her vet and one to us.
The woman’s vet came to give Ari the colostrum he so badly needed, and, shortly thereafter, our team arrived to rush him to Cornell University Hospital for Animals. The tiny calf was suffering from an eye infection, diarrhea, and a hernia, but what most concerned us was his vulnerability to navel ill, an infection that enters through the umbilicus and can be fatal. If it were to strike, emergency surgery would be necessary.
We have been able to take Ari home to the shelter, and we must now watch him very carefully; the health of a newborn calf can change rapidly. Ari is currently on antibiotics for a mild umbilical infection, and we regularly clean and monitor his umbilical stalk. As his caregivers watch over him and provide around-the-clock bottle feedings, they are heartened to see his small acts of determination. His appetite is still weak, but he tries his best at feedings. On his second day with us, this sweet boy mustered his first moo. Just recently he ran and bucked — only for only a few seconds and quite clumsily, but it was a valiant effort nonetheless.
For so many calves in the dairy industry, life is short and harsh. Their entire experience of the world is punctuated by loss, fear, and pain. But Ari is demonstrating that a calf’s life could be so much more. Even in his delicate physical condition, he clearly is eager to live and thrive. We are working day and night to ensure that he can.
If you’d like to contribute to Ari’s care and for animals like him, please donate today.