Date of Birth: 23/05/2015
Gotcha Day: 12/06/2015
Breed: Holstein Friesian
Ariane, our founder, was looking for one of her neighbours and went looking for him inside a barn where she had never stepped in before. She witnessed a dozen Holstein calves individually tied to the wall with shackles and chains that were a mere 50cm long. Just enough to allow them to turn around or lay down. There was straw underneath them but it had clearly not been changed since the day they were put there so it was covered in urine and fecal matter. The acid from the urine had burned the hair away from the body parts that were in contact with it so a lot of them had bald spots and irritated skin.
When meeting the farmer he told her that the 3 males would be sent to Spain to be fattened up for slaughter.
Holstein cows (dairy cows) are used for dairy and the male calves are so skinny that the meat industry in Belgium or France doesn’t want them due to the small amount of meat available. In some farms, the male Holstein calves are simply tossed into big bins alive, labeled as trash. This farmer, however, sells them to Spain. They are destined to travel for at least 38 hours crammed in a truck without food or water. About 25% of calves are deceased by the time they reach their destination. The female calves, on the other hand, are kept to replace their mothers once the latter are completely used up, at around 6 years old, when they are then also sent to slaughter.
Without hesitating, Ariane asked the farmer whether she could buy the three males. The next day we went to pick them up to bring them to their forever home in the sanctuary.
At the farm, calves drink powdered milk (of course, the mother’s milk is exclusively reserved for human consumption!) from a bucket where they have to lap it up like a dog. Calves are supposed to suckle and drink milk with their head facing upward, as nature intended. This aids their digestion.
So we purchased suckling buckets and special formula. We fed them 6 times a day, at first by hand, then we devised a way to hang the buckets securely to the wall.
We had a cow, Pluche, that was over 19 years old, who had never had a calf before, who took them under her wing and mothered them. She taught them a lot and cared for them.
Hermes was born with an unfinished heart, it was not fully developed. He had difficulties breathing and when he was suckling the milk he would stop and gasp for air, nearly drowning himself every time he ate.
We contacted a vet in Belgium, specialised in cattle and horses, who recommended some heart medication as well as vitamins to help develop his heart. Needless to say, even though Hermes didn’t have a full physical heart, he had a huge emotional one and he captured all of ours.
We were worried Hermes would not make it but we never gave up. Though his progress was slower than Chronos and he is overall weaker than his step-brother, he has grown to be as tall as him. Hermes is also very loving and adores it when he is given attention, love and care. The two brothers are always together, sometimes even in the same stall (which is meant for 1 horse, not two fully grown steers!)
In the summer we hang old bedsheets in front of the barn stalls and their shelter to give the animals shade. Hermes always enjoys making a hole in these sheets in order to be able to still see outside. He enjoys the shade and the lesser amount of flies, but he still enjoys having a “window” to watch the cars go by.
Although the common belief is that no animals are killed in order to make milk or cheese, that could not be further from the truth. Eventually, every animal dies long before their time. Please don’t support these cruel industries and ditch dairy in favour of plant-based alternatives.