Christmas tidings come in all shapes and sizes. In 2009 at Animal Place, Christmas Day brought a frightened, underfed baby calf with a pair of the biggest brown eyes imaginable.
Berkeley Animal Control retrieved the week-old male Jersey calf from a back yard in the city of Berkeley on Christmas Day. With neither the facilities nor the knowledge to care for him, the Berkeley Shelter called upon us to help, and within two hours, the little calf was on his way to Animal Place. We quickly got together the milk bottles, nipples, calf-replacer milk, blankets, antibiotics and other things we'd need to care for him.
Nicholas, as we've named him, was apparently bought at auction and was likely destined for backyard slaughter, which is fairly common.
One factor making such slaughter common is that male calves like Nicholas are of little use to dairy farmers.
As the country's leading dairy state, California is home to 1.5 million milk cows, each of whom must be impregnated to give milk. Although nature intends this milk to feed baby cows, calves are generally taken from their mothers within a day of being born. Female calves are raised and used as milk producers, while male calves are viewed as basically worthless animals who don't fatten up like cows raised for beef. As a result, male dairy calves are sold at auction. (In many states, baby male calves are locked into tiny crates and eventually slaughtered for veal.)
Nicholas' fate is much brighter. At Animal Place, he's receiving round the clock care from volunteers and staff, with regular bottle feedings and medical attention, in warm and safe surroundings. He'll be an ambassador for the millions of other male calves born every year who never live beyond a few months. Nicholas is a wonderful Christmas gift.