Farm Sanctuary’s biggest “bachelor herd” has a new leading lady! We are thrilled to welcome Jackie, an Angus cow rescued from a Utah slaughterhouse, to a new family of bovine brothers at our Southern California Shelter.

Jackie is just two to three years old, but in that short amount of time, she had already lost friends and relatives to slaughter in the beef industry. Jackie and her calf—who was born on the slaughterhouse floor—would have been next, had activists not taken pity on this new mother and pled for her and her calf’s release.

Jackie bears the brand of her former beef farm

These compassionate rescuers arranged transport from the Utah slaughterhouse to our Southern California Sanctuary. Sadly, Jackie took much of that journey alone. Her new baby, John, became very sick along the way. We sent a veterinarian to meet them halfway, but despite our best efforts, the small calf passed away. We asked that Jackie and John stay together overnight, so she would know we weren’t taking her baby away.

Bovines like Jackie are herd animals. They form lifelong bonds with family and friends, and mourn their loved ones when they pass. In the beef, veal, and dairy industries, their grief often goes unrecognized. These industries encourage the separation of families in order to make greater profits, sooner. While cows and their calves will cry for each other so much that their throats become raw—often for weeks post separation—this practice remains commonplace. These sensitive, social animals lose their loved ones, without ever understanding why.

This time, Jackie knew what had happened to her son—but recognition didn’t make the pain any easier. Without him, she was heartbroken and afraid, and she shook and cried for her lost calf. Understandably, she remained wary of people when she arrived at Farm Sanctuary. We would soon find out that the way to her heart was through our other bovine residents—steers and calves who were ready to welcome this new girl to the herd.

Dixon calf was the first to make Jackie’s acquaintance. He was also new to Farm Sanctuary, and had been separated from his mother on a dairy farm. Dixon spent his first few weeks in quarantine due to a bad case of cryptosporidium. As he recovered, we moved Jackie into the pen next door, where the two could sniff and “talk” to one another. We were beginning to wean Dixon off his bottle at the time, so he was particularly vocal. Once Jackie heard Dixon’s moos, her crying for her lost son began to ebb away. While neither could take the place of the family they had lost, it clearly did them both good to have a friend nearby—so once Dixon was healthy enough, we moved them in together.

Dixon took to Mama Jackie from the start—and it helped Jackie immensely to have a calf around as well. When the time came, we introduced the pair to the rest of the herd—together. No matter the species, meeting new friends can be scary, so it helps to have a buddy along to back you up! We brought the pair into a larger paddock so they could first greet the “big boys” through the fence. These introductions served two purposes: they helped Jackie and Dixon feel more at ease, and they helped the others get used to them as well.

Some animals will quite literally butt heads when they meet, and we never want to see anyone hurt or overwhelmed. Of particular concern was that Jackie, the lone female of the herd, could be subject to over-mounting from these large former bachelors. As for Dixon, we hoped he might find a playmate in young Leo—but there was also a possibility that Leo might pick on Dixon in order to gain dominance within the herd. However, since their preliminary meetings went well, and because the benefits of joining the herd far outweighed the risks, we proceeded with cautious optimism.

Jackie and Dixon on their way to meet the herd

To our delight, their introduction went seamlessly! Little Dixon approached Leo right away and, much to our surprise, the elder calf was scared of him! Fear morphed into curiosity, which morphed into playfulness, and now these two are fast friends.

Even while busy with a new playmate, Dixon kept on the lookout for Jackie. She was a little nervous at first, so Dixon kept going back to make sure she was okay—just like families do. The rest of the herd also welcomed Jackie as their own. Bruno, the leader, gently touched his nose to hers in greeting.

Bruno (left) and Jackie (right)

Most touching, though, was seeing Harry—a former loner—making eyes at the new girl in town! He was so excited he twisted his ankle along the way to greet her—but not even that could stop him from approaching his new crush. Our caregivers have called this meeting “When Harry Met Jackie,” and we’re intrigued by what’s to come from this budding romance!

A typical day sees Dixon and Leo running and playing side by side—they especially enjoy rolling their new tire toys around—overseen by “big brother” Safran. Jackie is feeling more at ease each day, with her new family by her side—especially since they all love people, so she’s learning we’re not all so bad, after all. She has many admirers who treat her as the respected matriarch she is now free to be. Her rescue not only changed her life, but the rest of the herd’s as well. Welcome to the family, Jackie—you’re safe now.