Just two weeks ago, a small herd of cattle arrived at the New York Shelter in horrible condition. The five adults and two calves were all starving and incredibly frightened after suffering severe neglect on a Western New York farm. As we wrote during the rescue, the property was littered with trash and abandoned equipment. The animals had been left without food, water or shelter, and the stench of death and decay was palpable. There was a makeshift slaughterhouse on the property where many of the animals were butchered. It was truly a shocking scene.
Belinda and Luna
As soon as rescued animals arrive at our shelters, we assess them to ensure that they are in good health or to immediately treat any health issues they may have. Because there was a bull among our new cattle friends, we had our large animal vet out to perform sonograms on all the female cattle. The sonograms revealed that Belinda, a Holstein already desperately depleted from starvation and nursing her current calf, Octavia, was carrying another baby. This poor girl was so exhausted that her body had stopped producing milk for her little one in an attempt to put all its energy into supporting her new pregnancy. Thankfully, we found that another cow, Luna, had stepped in and willingly allowed Octavia to nurse alongside her own calf, Orchid.
Luna was the thinnest of the cattle and we rescued her just in time. Had she continued to nurse two babies without food or water, she surely would have died in that barren pasture. Safe with us, Luna is finally getting all the nutrients she needs to keep her own calf and Belinda’s daughter healthy and content. In fact, Octavia and Orchid don’t nurse nearly as often as they did in the first days after their rescue. Both calves are about 7-to-8 months old, an age at which they could survive on solid foods. But facing starvation on that farm, the milk from Luna, and likely from Belinda until she stopped producing, kept the calves alive and strong. Thanks to Luna, Belinda should now be able to put all her energy into her new baby and will hopefully have a strong beautiful calf.
Belinda is a sweet girl who is still very shy. We believe that, when the baby arrives, Belinda, Octavia, and this new calf will learn to trust people more and more; but, for now, this girl is keeping her distance from everyone. Most importantly, Belinda and her children will all be able to spend the rest of their lives together. All three will have a new home at the VINE Sanctuary in Vermont. Not only will they be able to live as a family, but they will also always know the security of being part of a herd, which is something that all cattle deserve.
Our second expectant mother, Oleander, arrived with an obvious belly. We hoped this was a sign that she was new to the herd and had endured the horror on that desolate farm for only a short time. Upon closer examination, however, we could tell that her belly was all baby and that she too was suffering from malnutrition with her pelvis and spine showing no muscle.
Oleander is a cautious, gentle girl who takes comfort from the other cattle, never straying from them even for a minute. She is especially close with a male Holstein, Tristan, who is most likely the father of our two expected arrivals. We hope that the special care and nutrition Oleander is now receiving will make up for the deprivation she endured at the beginning of her pregnancy. We will work to ensure that she, her calf, and Tristan are placed in a home where they can always be together.
Oleander safe at our New York Shelter
Cows, like humans, have a gestation period of about 40 weeks. We anticipate that Belinda and Oleander will deliver sometime in the next two months. The shelter staff and everyone at Farm Sanctuary are so very happy to have rescued these moms and babies from certain death. We can see that they are already feeling safe and secure. Although the moms remain vigilantly with their babies at all times, they no longer panic when we come to check on the calves — and Octavia and Orchid, for their parts, seem quite at home.
We’ll be sure to announce the arrival of our two new calves, post pictures and share stories of the joy these little ones are bound to bring to their moms, their herd, and everyone they meet!