Recently, an eight-year-old, 2,000-pound Simmental steer named Thunder boarded a trailer in Methuen, Massachusetts. For most Simmentals in the United States, where the breed is raised predominantly for meat, a ride in a trailer means a brutal end at the slaughterhouse. Thunder, however, was headed toward a new beginning at our New York Shelter.
For the previous four years, Thunder lived at Nevins Farm, a shelter run by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA). This organization, the second oldest humane society in the United States, offered him a home when his former caregiver could no longer keep him. Gentle and friendly, Thunder was a favorite among staff and visitors and, over the years, also caught the attention of motorists who passed by his paddock daily on the adjacent highway. Thunder became something of a mascot for Nevins Farm, as well as a powerful ambassador for farm animals.
Thunder had many human admirers, but he had no cattle herd to call his own. His most recent bovine friend at Nevins was a cow named Baby Bell, who joined him in 2011. Thunder was smitten. But, after only three weeks, Baby Bell was adopted into a loving home, and Thunder was once again without bovine companionship.
Cattle are herd animals, who feel most comfortable amidst their own kind. They form deep, lifelong friendships; share life’s pleasures; and protect one another. Thunder’s MSPCA caregivers understood that Thunder was deprived of this special bond and began to search for a home with more companions for him. When we learned of Thunder’s longing for friends, we offered him a place in our cattle herd.
With help from Farm Sanctuary friends Dorr Begnal and John Talbot, who are also longtime MSPCA supporters, Thunder made the nearly seven-hour journey from Methuen to Watkins Glen in a transport trailer filled with heavy bedding so he could rest comfortably for the long journey. When he arrived, caregivers were waiting, ready to lead him into our cattle barn and help him settle in.
We established Thunder in a private area at first so he could adjust to his new surroundings. He was thrilled to be near others of his kind — and he made sure we knew he was anxious to join them. With singular focus, he made his way through gates and fencing to break into the pasture where our main herd grazes. Later, he found his way into the stall where two special needs cows were living while they received treatment. Molly, an elderly and severely arthritic cow, caught Thunder’s attention immediately. He seemed to sense that she could use some extra care and set himself to grooming and watching over her.
When he made his big entrance into our special needs herd, Thunder quickly ingratiated himself there as well. He was introduced to the herd at the same time as six Holstein calves who were rescued earlier in the year. The young males, who weighed a mere few hundred pounds each, had no reservations about rough-housing with their new, 2,500-pound herd mate. Thunder played along gamely, returning the calves’ head-butts with measured gentleness, being careful not to overwhelm them. In no time, the new friends were grooming each other. Thunder adores his new cattle family, and the feeling is mutual.
It’s clear to us why Thunder was so popular at Nevins Farm. This sweet, handsome steer is irresistible, and we’re excited to watch friendships blossom between him and other members of our cattle herd. We’re also looking forward to meeting some of the many fans Thunder made at Nevins, who we hope will drop by to see him at our Watkins Glen sanctuary during visitor season.
Welcome, Thunder! We’re so glad you’re here!