Della, good-bye and good luck

I love cows, and I treat them like they are pets. I talk to them like most people would a dog, and to calm them I talk in soft mantras or especially when I was younger, I used to sing to them.

I grew up on a dairy farm and know where my food comes from and have loaded cattle for sale and help separate beef cattle, which is moving the breeding herd back to the pastures and taking the babies that are now weaned and growing into lots to feed them out for sale. Yes, it is kind of awful, but I am told I am soft- hearted. I know the reality of farming and sometimes it has to be run like a business and not a luxury camp for animals. Real life is hard sometimes, but it is not abuse. Don’t all for misinformation. The word “all” like ‘one size fits all’ is almost always wrong.

I get there is some hypocrisy with this because I can love an animal for its personality and playfulness but still enjoy eating meat. When I first figured this out, I tried to be a vegetarian, and have tried more than once, but I hated it and felt pretty much sick most of the time. Again, real life sucks! And no– I still can’t get freshly butchered chicken. It has to be the freezer for few weeks.

My daughters have been showing Brown Swiss Dairy Cattle for 4-H shows, in partnership with a local farm because both my husband and I are full time teachers and don’t/can’t milk without the time and six-figure facilities. These baby calves our like pets. The Brown Swiss breed are like having curious big dogs. They come when called by name, love to be pet and scratched on the neck, but because their size– it is a little bit scary when the jump and want to chase. Still, they are so beautiful and loving.

Our daughters are aging out of 4-H, and our last baby calf is huge and the farmer has chosen to sell her rather than keep her as part of a milking herd. We had her on our place for six months as a baby and we bottle feed her and taught her to lead on a halter and then she spent the winter months on the farm.

When I entered the barn last night, she was right on the end of the row and knew me before I recognized her. She looked straight at me and stretched against the halter to sniff my hand. Her colors had deepening into a rich chocolate brown for the very white latte color of last fall, and or course she had put on about 500 lbs. She knew me instantly.

She reached for my hand so I pet her like any other friendly cow and she leaned into my hand to be scratched, eyes closed, and she continued to chew her cud, which is a sign of comfortability . My husband looked in the sale book to find her assigned number for the sale, and yes this is Della. Of course, how could I not know!

Cows can actually hug, if you get close enough they wrap their head around you, and rub their neck on you leg and side. I have pictures of my daughters napping with her heifers. Keep in mind if you don’t know the animal the head is huge and hard and cows use their skull in defending themselves and their babies. Della hugged.

I know today, she will be auctioned off and I will never see her again. I am not attending the sale to see her go. I can’t. I can look at the reports and see how took her home. She is a very good animal and will got to a dairy herd, so I am hoping for the best that the farmers will care well for her. This is dairy –not beef, which is a small concession she is not off to slaughter. But I am very sad. We knew we could never keep her, but will miss her sweet, gentle personality as any loving pet. Good-bye Della.

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