Every year, young 4-H participants across the country travel to state and county fairs to show the farm animals they have raised and cared for over the preceding months. After the judging has concluded and all the awards have been handed out, most of the animals are auctioned off, signaling an end to another year of the animal husbandry program. The caregivers go home, and their animals go to slaughter. This was the fate awaiting a young steer named Stefan before a compassionate woman intervened.
Stefan had been raised and cared for by a teenage 4-H participant since he was four months old. As the county fair approached this summer, the handsome steer was featured in a newspaper article about the event, which brought him to the attention of a Farm Sanctuary supporter. As soon as she saw Stefan’s face in the photo, this friend of animals was smitten. Unable to bear the thought of him being exploited and slaughtered, she reached out to us and arranged for Stefan to come to our Northern California Shelter.
For many young caregivers, the end of their animal husbandry project is a time for tearful goodbyes. They may even watch their animals loaded onto meat industry trucks, knowing they will soon be killed. But Stefan’s caregiver had a much happier future to imagine for her friend as she said goodbye to him. When Farm Sanctuary staff members arrived to bring the steer to sanctuary, the teen’s mom asked how long Stefan would live at the shelter. Our staff told her that he would remain there for as long as he lived, which could be about 20 years. The mother and daughter were amazed and thrilled to realize that the little calf they had cared for would enjoy a long, full life.
And that life is already off to a great start. For the first week or so, Stefan was a little reluctant to warm up to the staff members who had taken him away from his caregiver. But, he was quick to make new friends at the shelter among his own kind. Shortly after his arrival, Stefan joined our main cattle herd and has been fitting right in. He became especially good buddies with three other young steers: Blake, Sixer, and Phoebus. And, now that he will never be seen as a commodity to be exploited for a profit, Stefan has all the time in the world to enjoy his days grazing, exploring, and even getting a good tongue-grooming from a new pal.