After having a rough start in life, a very special cow named Linda is now living in peace and comfort at Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter. Linda was born at a dairy farm. Sadly, she was pulled incorrectly from her mother’s womb during the birthing process. As a result, her pelvis was crushed, causing her permanent mobility problems. Considering her “damaged goods,” the farmer wanted nothing to do with her. He had no use for a crippled cow.
Linda likely would have been “discarded” by the farmer or sold to slaughter, if not for the compassion of a kind man who intervened on her behalf. Taking pity on the tiny calf, the man rescued her and called Farm Sanctuary for help. We happily agreed to welcome her into our sanctuary family.
Across the country each year, countless calves just like Linda are injured or killed during the birthing (or “calving”) process. In fact, animal agriculture experts estimate that stillborn calves or calves that die within 48 hours of birth cost the dairy industry alone more than $125 million each year. Especially at risk are those calves who are pulled by force from their mothers’ bodies. Of course, it goes without saying that this process can be dangerous, and even deadly, for the mother as well.
Sometimes during calving, farmers have to use pulling methods to save the life of a calf, and if they do so gently and carefully, and with the proper obstetric equipment, both mother cow and calf can come through unharmed. But some farmers pull calves at birth when it is not necessary to do so (sometimes with chains attached to horses, tractors or trucks), because they are inexperienced or impatient with the process. Many others create the problem of “pull calves” in the first place by forcing very young heifers to give birth before their pelvic cavities are large enough to accommodate the safe passage of a calf through the birth canal. In these cases, the hips of the unborn calf may become “locked” in the pelvic area of the mother. If a calf is then pulled while in this “hip lock,” the pressure on her body is often strong enough to break bones and cause permanent nerve damage. This likely was what happened to Linda.
Thankfully, despite what she went through early in life, Linda is now doing very well. She will always have some difficulty with her hind legs, though, and as she gets older and grows larger her health issues may get worse. X-rays taken at the Cornell University Veterinary Hospital have revealed to us that there is nothing we can do to help her walk better or to make her bones stronger. But we will love her and care for her all the rest of her life, and we will do our best to keep her happy and healthy.
Even with her leg problems, life at Farm Sanctuary is a joy for Linda, and she never lets her difficulties get her down. The only things that worry Linda now are which stretch of hillside to graze in the morning, how much exploring she’ll decide to do on any given day and when she’ll get yet another warm hug from one of her caregivers.