The gentle moo of a cow named Tricia was one of the first sounds to reach Sweety upon her arrival at our New York Shelter. Unfamiliar places are frightening to blind animals like Sweety, so this simple greeting from another cow must have been a great comfort to her. By the next morning, Sweety had already begun to relax. It was clear that this new place offered only peace, comfort, and kindness.
Sweety’s life began at a dairy farm in Canada where she was kept on concrete floors inside a bleak industrial building with no access to the outdoors. Once she was old enough to be impregnated, Sweety entered production. Like all dairy cows, she endured an unrelenting cycle of insemination, pregnancy, and birth. All of her babies were taken from her just moments after they were born. Because they are of no use to the dairy industry, her sons were sold for veal or cheap beef. Her daughters were raised as replacements for the dairy herd, but none were ever allowed to remain with their mother.
In large industrial farms, dairy cows are typically considered “spent” at around four years old and are then sent to slaughter. Sweety was kept in production for eight long years, which is unusual. When she began suffering from a foot infection that rendered her lame and after giving birth to two sets of twins, Sweety’s value to the dairy dropped considerably. The birth of twins is undesirable to the dairy industry because the males are usually small and the females in fraternal pairs are typically sterile.
Emaciated, ailing, and exhausted from years in production, Sweety was soon slated for slaughter. The slaughter line is awful for all animals, but it is especially terrifying for those who are blind. With their other senses heightened, these creatures are overwhelmed by an onslaught of alarming noises and odors: the clanking of metal gates and shackles, the bellows of their herd mates, the smell of blood. Sweety was already bound for the slaughterhouse when the dairy owner relinquished custody of the cow.
Someone at the dairy had recounted Sweety’s story to an acquaintance named Rose who runs a horse rescue organization named Refuge RR. On learning of Sweety’s plight, Rose quickly persuaded the dairy to spare the cow. Unable to keep Sweety, she began seeking permanent placement. When Rose’s search came to our attention, we eagerly offered Sweety a home in hopes that the arrangement would benefit not only Sweety but also one of our other rescued residents named Tricia.
Like Sweety, Tricia is a blind dairy cow. In 2008, we welcomed her to our New York Shelter when she too was being sent to slaughter because the farmer felt it was too difficult to handle her. At that time, we introduced Tricia to Linda, a cow with a hip injury, because both had disabilities that kept them from living with our larger main herd. The two became best friends, forming one of the closest bonds we’ve ever witnessed. After Linda passed away last year from cancer, it was plain to see that Tricia was at a loss without her cherished friend. Companionship is profoundly important to cattle, so it was exciting to think that by giving Sweety a new life, we might also give Tricia another chance to enjoy her own.
Rose transported Sweety to our shelter with a Farm Sanctuary team following behind to ensure that all went smoothly. The caravan made it to our shelter at night, and Sweety stayed up late to savor a feast of hay before settling into the deep bedding of her pen, a comfort she relished after a lifetime of standing and lying on concrete. From an adjacent pen, Tricia could smell Sweety immediately. Although the two would not meet face to face until the following day, Tricia circled and mooed, clearly eager to get acquainted.
When it was time for the introduction, we led Sweety into Tricia’s stall. Tricia was busy enjoying some hay, and it took her a moment to realize that the newcomer was beside her. As Sweety leaned in for a sniff, however, Tricia perked up and began investigating this intriguing stranger. Within moments, the two cows were gently nuzzling one another and sharing a meal. By evening, they were nestled together for a night of quiet comfort.
In the days to come, Sweety will be examined by our veterinarian to ensure that her eyes aren’t causing her any pain, and she’ll need to be carefully monitored as she puts on some much-needed weight. Because Sweety was kept indoors, she does not have a winter coat so she’ll wear a horse blanket until the warmer days of spring arrive. With Tricia by her side, Sweety has already ventured outside to enjoy the winter sunshine and fresh air. We can already see a beautiful friendship blooming.