Blackie, a two-year-old Devon x Freisian heifer broke away from the new
farm she had been sold to and, walking seven miles through strange
country, "homed in" on the new farm that her calf had been taken to.
This amazing story has baffled behaviour experts. Pigeons and
domestic pets can often find their way back to their homes but this was
a reunion in surroundings as strange to the mother as to the calf.
The story started when Mr. Fernley Martin of Jacobstowe sold the
heifer and her calf in Hatherleigh market. The mother was sent to Bob
Woolacott's Holedown farm at Exbourne, near Okehampton where she was
bedded down for the night with a supply of hay and water.
But her maternal instincts led her to break out of the farmyard, and
over a hedge into a country lane.
Next morning she was to be found seven miles away reunited and
suckling her calf at Arthur Sleeman's farm at Withybrook, Sampford
Courtenay. Mr. Sleeman was able to identify Blackie as the mother by the
auction-labels still stuck on their rumps. He traced Mr. Woolacott, the
purchaser of the heifer, who went over to fetch her back. But Mrs.
Woolacott put her foot down and made her husband buy the calf so that
they could be kept together.
There are over three million cows and heifers in the dairy herds in
U.K. and every year each one has a calf from which it is separated so
that we can have the milk. Is Blackie's love-bond for her calf unique,
or was her separation typical of what three million other bovine mums go
through - without happy endings?
Some female calves are retained on nurse-cows or fed on the bucket in
order to provide replacements for the dairy herd.
Some that are from suitable breeds are sold for rearing on for beef
The rest, sometimes up to 4,500 in a week are surplus and are killed
at a week or ten days old to end up in veal pie, pastas or pet foods.
Death at such an early age may however be preferable to being exported
to France or Italy to be reared on for veal. Travellers on the St. Malo
ferry will often see four or even five lorry loads of calves,
accompanying them. The main ports used for this sordid trade in
unweanable babies are Dover, Portsmouth, Poole and Southampton.
From Ag.Scene, February 1984 - journal of Compassion in World
Reproduced with Thanks .