At the small dairy farm where Michael was born, the arrival of male calves is quickly followed by the arrival of a man with a truck. Within a couple days of the births, he comes to pick up the unwanted boys and take them to auction, where they are sold and shortly killed for veal or cheap beef. Because dairy cows must be regularly impregnated to continue producing milk, and because about half the calves they deliver are male, the auction truck is a regular visitor to most dairy farms. Upon his visit just after this St. Patrick’s Day, however, the driver left with an empty truck.
Two weeks before, the farmer sent a group of calves to auction, yet she held one back. She liked something about this little calf and wasn’t ready to let him go. Eventually, however, she decided that she must. It is uncommon for a dairy farmer to keep a male calf, feeding and caring for him as he grows while gleaning no marketable product. When animals are seen as commodities, it becomes impractical to put their welfare first, and personal connection inevitably yields to the bottom line.
So this calf had a belated date with that auction truck. Luckily, some other people were looking out for him. A trucker friend of the farmer’s learned the calf’s story and told it to workers at a cat and dog shelter where he sometimes brought rescued animals. The group posted an alert on its Facebook page, and, on a Sunday just two days before the scheduled pickup, the alert caught the attention of a dedicated animal rescuer named Mike Stura. Using his own money and on his own time, Mike purchased a transport trailer, just to have the ability to do emergency rescues, like this one, where a quick response could mean the difference between life and death.
With the deadline looming, Stura and his wife decided to hit the road while attempting to get in touch with the farmer. They had no direct number and it took hours for them to reach the contact person at the rescue. They were finally able to get the farmer’s contact details from the truck driver — and not a minute too soon. Stura pulled into the farmer’s driveway just as the auction truck arrived. He lifted the calf into his own truck and headed for our New York Shelter, arriving at night in the middle of a snowstorm. In honor of this valiant friend to animals, we named the new arrival Michael.
Now, we are getting to know this sweet and gentle calf. At the Melrose Small Animal Hospital, we have treated him for diarrhea and giardia, common ailments among dairy calves. Michael is shy but talkative — you can hear his mooing everywhere in the hospital. He clearly still misses his mom, but he will soon have a new family. Once he has a clean bill of health, Michael will join our special needs herd and is likely to be mothered by one of the Holstein girls, like Fanny. He will learn to be part of a herd. He will frolic and play and graze, reveling in a spring that he almost didn’t live to see.