19 September, 2015
It has been the most heartbreaking of days.
From the moment that we realised Anne-Marie, a lovely old Jersey cow who came to the sanctuary 5 months ago was pregnant, we were concerned. Years of being used for dairy products have ravaged Anne-Marie’s health to the point that her coat is constantly brittle and worn, and her bones and horns weak and twisted.
For the last two weeks we have been nervously awaiting a birth. Anne-Marie of course was rather non-plussed by our fretting, this being probably her 9th or 10th calf.
It was a miracle for us when suddenly, a tiny tan little girl appeared beside her. We were so glad that Anne-Marie had borne the pregnancy so well and so delighted to see a healthy, happy and curious little calf.
However the next day, we discovered Anne-Marie down in the paddock. We called in a vet who diagnosed chronic mastitis. Dairy farmers will tell you that all Jersey cows are susceptible to mastitis, what they won’t tell you is that they are susceptible to mastitis because their breed has been permanently altered by the dairy industry so that the milk that they produce could easily feed up to eight calves.
This enormous demand on their poor weak bodies reduces their ability to fight infection and thus mastitis occurs. It can also occur because of the filthy dirty conditions that they are kept in and because of the milking machines that bruise and cut their udders and allow for easy transmission of disease from cow to cow.
Anne-Marie was very weak, unable to eat and dehydrated. We urgently began treatment to bring her back to health. At all times Anne-Marie’s concern was for her calf. Frequently she made the enormous effort of standing up so that her calf could feed despite her terribly weakened state.
September 19, 2015 at 3pm we found Anne-Marie sitting alongside a tiny tan body, her calf having died a few minutes earlier. We don’t know yet why her calf died, but we know that Anne-Marie’s weakened state, older age and internal infections will have contributed both through pregnancy and possibly after the birth.
Anne-Marie seemed to know what was going to happen. This morning Anne-Marie was watching her calf playing with Fiona, a calf who was recently rescued from the dairy industry. But after lunch Anne-Marie took her baby away from the herd to a cool spot under some trees and sat with her calf as she died.
When we discovered her sitting there we stayed with her for about an hour until she gave her lost baby a little nudge and then she went to be with the other cattle in the herd, and she started eating and drinking. While her mastitis is still weakening her, it appears that it was her sadness that had kept her down for so long and not the disease as we had thought.
Anne-Marie is so used to loss. Baby after baby will have been ripped from her shortly after birth by the dairy industry so that humans could use her milk for ice-cream, milkshakes and butter. We hope it is some comfort to her that the last thing that this baby saw was her mother adoringly watching over her last moments.
Melissa’s life was short but not without meaning. The volunteers at the sanctuary are devastated by our loss of such a beautiful, sweet, little creature. We will remember her for showing us the strength of her mother’s love, her will to make the most of her short life, and for forever touching our hearts.
Melissa is just one of the Jersey calves that will have died today. Hundreds of others will have been slaughtered as the waste products of dairy production when they were just six days old. They also had a loving mother, but a loving mother was not the last thing they saw. What they saw was cold, harsh and brutal.
Rest in peace Melissa. We loved you from the moment we met you and you will forever leave a hole in our hearts.
Anne-Marie continues to get better and we expect a full recovery.