Blitzen
Animal Stories from All-Creatures.org

FROM Farm Sanctuary
Facebook posting, February 13, 2022

He weighed just 37 pounds—tiny for a newborn calf—and was sick with pneumonia. Without rescue from that dairy farm on that frigid December day, little Blitzen would have died alone. He lived happily at Farm Sanctuary for 11 years!

Blitzen Calf

It’s with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our dear friend, Blitzen steer. We rescued Blitzen as a baby, and he lived at Farm Sanctuary’s New York shelter for 11 years. He was a gentle giant, beloved member of his herd, and admired ambassador for his species.

We met him at a stockyard sale. Though Blitzen, a Jersey, was a dairy breed, males can’t be used for milk—and so they’re often sold for meat. But no one wanted Blitzen: He weighed just 37 pounds—tiny for a newborn calf—and was sick with pneumonia. Without rescue on that frigid December day, little Blitzen would have died alone.

Instead, we brought Blitzen home along with two other ailing calves—later named Lawrence and Alexander. They healed side by side and grew up the best of friends.

Blitzen Calf

Sadly, we lost Alexander in 2015; Lawrence passed in 2021. Both had issues with their legs—a common fate for “dairy boys” allowed to grow up. Animal agriculture breeds them larger and faster than their bodies’ natural limits. Those who live beyond a designated slaughter age suffer damage from the strains of excess growth upon their limbs.

Blitzen, as well, had trouble with his legs and was unable to stand on the day of his passing. He was surrounded by his doting herd, who came to say goodbye. “They went in one by one,” our caregivers shared. “The older cows were grooming him. Some were really worked up—he was a very cherished member of the herd.”

Cows are sentient and emotional beings who bond for life and mourn their loved ones deeply. In the dairy industry, however, few get the chance to fulfill these natural bonds. In some cases, they barely have time to grieve the separations or death of their loved ones; all their energy goes to simply staying alive.

At Sanctuary, however, animals can feel safe enough to feel. They caress and keep vigil over the sick. They bellow with grief. And they mourn and make it through together.

This gentle goodbye was a final gift for Blitzen and for those he loved. Life isn’t the same without him—but our lives are all so much better for having known him. Run free, Blitzen—you’ll be in our hearts forever. 


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