30th October 2006
On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, a Black African America women named Rosa Parks, age 42, refused to obey bus driver James Blake’s order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. What followed sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott that resulted in segregated buses being outlawed as unconstitutional. It’s hard to imagine that this landmark event was a little over 50 years ago. At the time many tried to play down Rosa’s actions of defiance saying she refused the bus drivers request because she was tired. Today Rosa’s response says it all “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in”
Rosa’s brave stand is a testament to the indefatigable human spirit to rise up against injustice. And right here, right now on our watch another injustice is being eked out that so few people know about. It is the plight of bobby calves. The lot of a bobby calf sees these tiny baby animals taken away from their mothers in the first day of their life so their mother’s milk can be harvested for human consumption. Surplus to the needs of the dairy industry around 700,000 of these calves are trucked off to saleyards then killed each year in Australia, most within the first week of their life. Edgar’s Mission wanted to give voice to these tiny babies, so in rescuing one we could tell the story of many. But which one? And then we saw Rosa at a bobby calf sale, one of the many held throughout Victoria. Unable to stand her lot was looking grim, a deal was struck and she was soon carefully carried to the awaiting straw lined horse float and she was Edgar’s Mission bound. For the first ten days Rosa was so sick and weak she was unable to stand or drink. We quickly learned to stomach tube a calf, so good we became at it that we could do it by torch light in a matter of minutes. Today Rosa is a fine strapping beautiful black and white cow, a testament to love, tenacity and the power of kindness. Rosa loves visitors and recounting her story gives meaning to the pledge we made to the ones we left behind – we will let your story.
Diary of a Bobby Calf
26/10/06 Born to a beautiful Friesian cow, the young heifer’s first taste of life is the loving caress of her mothers tongue as she licks clean her new born calf. The calf soon stands to take her first life sustaining suck of her mother’s milk. This is called colostrum and can contain five times as much protein as normal milk along with antibodies and vitamins, it will provide the building blocks of a healthy animal. The bond between mother and calf is strong, the cow rightly proud and protective of her newborn.
27/10/06 Calf forcibly removed from mother cow. Mother cow frantically bellows for bewildered calf. Calf placed in pen with other calves of similar fate. Calves fed milk replacement formula. Mother cows milk forcibly taken for human consumption.
28/10/06 Calf now searching for mother is confused. Others calves missing their mothers suck on ears and umbilical cords of others along with fence posts and anything thing they can get their tongues around searching for the delicious warm milk of their mum.
29/10/06 Depressed due to removal from mother, calf becomes disinterested in life. Calf reluctant to drink formula. These stresses cause a lowering of the immune system. Due to group feeding it is not known whether all calves have received adequate nourishment.
30/10/06 Trucked to saleyards along with several other calves. Dehydrated and suffering diarrhoea purchased by abattoir. Men begin herding and yelling at confused calves pushing and shoving then down race to take them to slaughterhouse, some stumble and fall. One calf struggles to keep up, looking around and gently uttering a feeble moo in the desperate hope it will be answered but not so. “I’ll take her” a kindly voice speaks from beneath a cap, the fate of one bobby calf has changed forever.
Gently ushered to an awaiting float that has been prepared with straw for a comfortable conveyance to her new home the tired, weak and confused calf lays down to rest.
2pm Arrival at sanctuary, listless and reluctant to stand. Carried to straw filled stable to rest. No interest in drinking.
6pm 200ml of electrolytes given by mouth. Calf showing little interest in sucking. Depressed.
8pm Calf not wanting to stand and listless, not interested in drinking
31/10/06 8am offered milk replacement formula, no interest. Calf listless and sides very sunken, concern over dehydration.
10am Offered electrolytes, no interest. Calf scouring and weak, eyes dull and sunken, very unresponsive, not wanting to stand. Called vet to attend
2.30pm Veterinarian attends and administers electrolytes by stomach tube, instantly see calf’s sides fill out although calf still very thin and weak.
8pm Calf still not wanting to drink, 200ml of milk formula by syringe
01/11/06 7am 1litre electrolyte by stomach tube. Calf weak showing no interest in sucking, not standing on her own but brighter than yesterday
12 noon Calf not wanting to drink. 1 litre milk formula by stomach tube with a little bi carbonate soda to ease stomach
2.30pm Calf still showing no interest in drinking or standing. 1 litre electrolyte by stomach tube
7.00pm 1 litre milk formula by stomach tube with a little bi carbonate soda to ease stomach
10.30pm 1 litre milk formula by stomach tube. Calf still listless showing no interest in drinking however appears a little brighter.
10.30 am Decide to wait a while to offer formula, hoping calf will be looking for food. Calf appears more alert than yesterday but no interest in sucking. 1 litre milk formula by stomach tube.
12 noon No interest in sucking, 1 litre electrolyte by stomach tube
6.00pm No interest in sucking, 1 litre milk formula by stomach tube
10.00pm No interest in sucking, 1 litre milk formula by stomach tube. Calf still alert and more interested in surroundings
8.00am Great excitement, calf looking for milk and tried bottle. She drank 1 litre, absolute delight for everyone involved although we are still not out of the woods. We are not sure what damage has occurred to her young and immature digestive system prior to arriving at sanctuary
2.00pm earlier elation dampened as calf showed no interest in drinking. 2 litres of electrolyte by stomach tube administered. Calf still has sunken sides, is weak and not moving about much.
8.00pm 1.75 litres of milk formula by stomach tube as calf is showing no interest in drinking. Perhaps she is going backwards, we are greatly concerned.
6.30am Calf offered milk formula, showed no interest. Sunken sides but alert. 1.5 litres of milk formula by stomach tube.
Monitored throughout day
5.00pm Halleluiah! Calf calling for milk as approached to feed. Drank 2 litres very enthusiastically. We are all ecstatic, is the worst over? Calf very much brighter today, even showing signs of playing
8.30pm Offered milk but calf not interested, not too concerned as she has drunk well on her own today. Anxiously await tomorrow’s response, it will be a real indication of prognosis.
7.00am Calf calling for milk, drank 2 litres enthusiastically. All very pleased, calf bright and very interested in life, had a little play afterwards.
Noon Introduced calf pellets
8pm Calf calling for milk, drank 2 litres really well
7am Calf drank 2.5 litres really well, looking for more.
2pm Drank 2 litres well
8pm drank 2 litres well, we begin to breathe a sigh of relief
* While the events leading up to the 30/10/06 are fictitious we have every reason to believe they represent the story of many a bobby calf offered for sale.