Let's say you see a picture, or short, 20-second video of a very cute, newborn baby calf posted somewhere on a social media site, like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Now, this particular calf is actually tied up--with a piece of twine around its neck--and kept inside what looks like to be a house or an office, like a farm office, and with no momma cow in sight.
What's going on?
Now this particular calf is all brown, very fuzzy and hairy. He (or she) looks to be a Scottish Highland or Galloway calf. Again, newborn, barely an hour old, and looks a little wet.
Why, you may be asking, is he inside this office? Where is his mother, and why is he tied up with a thick piece of baler twine tied around his neck??
Probably close to 70,000 or more people who commented on that video thought that calf was being cruelly treated. And you might have too if you didn't read or misinterpreted the description:
A snowy day on the farm didn't stop the birth of this little Scottish highland calf!
So, was little Diego being cruelly treated?
He was actually being saved after being born in a snowstorm. Snowstorms are not friendly to wet, newborn calves. Newborn calves are born wet, and this makes it much more easy for them to get extremely cold very quickly, and basically freeze to death. New baby calves are much more sensitive to the cold than their mothers. This calf was at a serious risk of severe cold stress, hypothermia, and/or frostbite if he didn't get rushed into a warm place after birth, and get a couple of hair-driers and warm towels put on him to get him warmed up, and dry off his already-thick coat.
The folks of the calf mentioned that he was only inside for half an hour. Then he was carried out again back to his more-than-likely impatiently-waiting mother. He would've been happy to get to suckling and getting the necessary colostrum for his body... and getting cleaned up and a proper grooming by his mother.
And where was momma?
She was, as already mentioned, outside, waiting to get her young'un back.
Why couldn't she just come inside with him?? You may be asking.
Well, It's pretty hard to bring a Scottish Highland cow into the office when she's actually 10 times the size of an average-sized dog. Most of those cows weigh around half a ton (~1,000 pounds) , and stand a good average of 4 to 5 feet tall at the shoulder. Since she already has that amazingly thick winter coat (and Highlands are perfectly adapted to cold, wintery conditions), she's better off being outside while her calf is inside--temporarily--getting warmed up. She also most likely isn't as tame as a pet dog to be able to come inside in the first place; doing so may be more hazardous to both herself, her calf, and the people inside, than most of you may think. I never even mentioned about those big, long horns of hers either...
Finally, why the twine around the calf's neck?
Well, calves, even as newborns, are naturally very inquisitive. They just cannot pass up the opportunity to wander around, sniffing and licking and tasting anything within their reach--just like with human babies!! This can certainly land them into trouble: Either they'll swallow something they shouldn't, or get caught up and tangled somewhere they shouldn't. Basically Diego was tied up to keep him out of trouble: It was for his own well-being, never to hurt him.
The thing is, it's not uncommon to bring newborn calves inside an office or the farmhouse when they need to be brought in. They'll be brought in when it's so cold out that they risk freezing to death. They'll be brought in because they're premies, or can't get up in enough time to get cleaned off by momma and start suckling. They'll even be brought in if their mother rejects them entirely and they need both a warm place to stay for the time being, and a good bottle of colostrum.
Warm towels or blankets, a hot water bottle or two, a heat lamp, a bottle of colostrum, and little extra TLC that they may not necessarily ask for (nor be all that thankful for, but no matter); all the kind of care farmers give newborn calves when they arrive at around the coldest time of the year to help them get their strength back, get warm and dry so that they're better off when they need to go back out to their mothers again.
With this video, the sad thing was almost every person commenting on that video didn't realize this at all. As a matter of fact, anyone who had something negative to say about that newborn calf had only in mind the issues around dairy production, and how dairy calves and cows get treated.
Scottish Highland cattle are not dairy cattle. They are beef cattle. This means that they're raised quite a bit differently from the typical dairy operation these people are used to seeing in animal rights activist videos.
Yet almost every single person on that thread predicted a horrible death and very short life for that calf. Here's some examples of what these people had to say:
--> "Are you kidding me?! An animal farm posting a video of a newborn calf separated from the mum, with a rope tied to its neck, who will soon be murdered for its meat as if it was something cute!?"
You get the picture. There are thousands of comments like these on that video.
The thing is, none of them are right. The calf is actually still alive (since this is a year old, he'd be a yearling bull now, no longer a calf), and stayed with his mother for as long as she needed him to be nursing. He's living a happy, healthy, vibrant life as he should, and that's really what matters most.
He was not destined for a short life and a horrible death. If he is even going to be killed for beef, he won't be until he's at least 2 to 3 years of age. From now to then, from what I've seen on that farm, this bull calf, probably going to be turned-steer (I haven't heard the latest of what has happened with Diego so far), will be living a wonderful and full life as any farmer could give such animals.
I think this baby calf is a way to show that we should all focus on the happy moments that are right in front of us, not the dark and scary things that may lie ahead in the future.
Range Nerd, Forage & Grazing Fanatic and a Bovine Enthusiast. A love for farming, and for the soil.
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