Many who arrive at Goodheart have known little kindness or compassion, and this was certainly true for our beloved Jersey Boys.
In November 2017, when our sanctuary had not long opened its doors, we rescued six Jersey calves from a dairy facility. As males, they were unable to produce milk, and so, after being separated from their mothers at only a few hours’ old, their fate was to be shipped abroad and turned into veal.
Veal is meat, usually from male dairy calves. The veal and dairy industries are closely linked, as male dairy calves cannot produce milk and are usually unsuitable for beef production, meaning they often end up as by-products, sent abroad to veal farms.
Though not as commonly served in the UK, veal is still a popular dish in the US and Europe, with around six million calves reared for veal within the EU every year. The long journeys these animals face can be highly stressful, and this is even before they reach the often barbaric veal farms where their sad fate awaits them.
Thankfully, for the boys, this grizzly fate was avoided, and they soon found themselves on the way to Goodheart Farm Animal Sanctuary instead.
Frightened, bewildered and no doubt missing mum, the calves arrived in very poor health and even the vet was unsure whether they’d pull through. The weakest, Duncan, was unable to stand and, along with a friend, he spent the first two weeks living in the downstairs utility room of our house. Each night the Animal Care Team would get up to spoon feed him medication and gradually, we began to see an improvement.
Despite their sad start to life, the six boys grew stronger and stronger each day and eventually, were able to join the rest of our cattle herd out in the fields. At this point, their unique personalities were beginning to emerge: Jerry, the confident and playful one, who isn’t afraid to say hello to anyone he meets, while Woody on the other hand, hangs back and takes a little longer to work up his courage in new situations. The team delighted in watching them frow from sickly calves to thriving adults, now affectionately known as ‘The Jersey Boys’ to our staff and visitors.
Here at the sanctuary, we try to foster our cows’ natural curiosity wherever possible. The cattle live in social herds where they are able to communicate, socialise and learn from each other. They are also exposed to new environments and objects that stimulate their inquisitive nature. Recently, our Jersey Boys and their herd moved to a new pasture where they have access to woodland, and Jerry and his friends have been having fun exploring this new environment.
Their story is an everyday reminder of the fulfilling lives that male calves born into the dairy industry may lead, if only given the chance.
Did you know, research suggests that cows are much more emotionally intelligent than many people may give them credit for? Tests have shown that dairy calves in particular are less anxious and able to problem-solve much faster when they have been kept in social housing (in pairs of two) rather than in solitary calf pens which is the current standard practice in the dairy industry.
If you would like to help us take care of the Jersey Boys and our other residents, why not adopt Duncan the cow, one of our shy gentle giants?
Adoptions are a great way to support our animals and go towards food, vet bills, and enrichment items to keep them happy.