Debbie Nelson: ‘Life and Death on a Dairy Farm’

Posted on January 26, 2019

calf newborn

Debbie Nelson saw all the events described here from the road, without trespassing.    She speaks in the voices of the cows and calves.


I was born at midday. Birthing was hard work for both my mother and I. I had the wet stickiness all over me. Before I knew it my mother was lovingly giving me a bath. First she licked me lying down. Then, when I started to learn to stand securely she continued to bathe me, I was squeaky clean by the time she was done. I was in a barn with my mother and lots of pregnant cows waiting to give birth and calves who were already born. When my legs were steady she nuzzled me affectionately to her udder to drink. The farmers let us stay together for a few such feedings so I could get colostrum for a healthy immune system. I saw other calves being born. I don’t know how to understand gender, but farmers do. Gender means life or death to us youngsters.

In what seemed like a short time with my mother a large man came into the enclosure. He picked me up and carried me away from my mother.

Mother stop him!

I can’t! 

Save me!

I can’t!

What’s going to happen to me? Life or death? Must I go?

Do what they say or they will hurt you more!

Goodbye forever? 

I don’t know. 

My mother had been through this so many times before. I must have been a female because I was put in a small stall. There was a row of these stalls, each one with a calf.  We were mooing so loudly you could hear us on the road. Some other female calves were put in plastic hutches outside, all alone. There were several rows of these hutches with about 7 per row, and all the calves were tethered to their small hutch.


I am a dead male jersey dairy calf. My lifeless body is lying on a cement slab about 4 feet above the ground My head is hanging over the slab, my tongue protrubing from my lifeless mouth. I will never moo for my absent mother again. I will never drink of her milk. I had committed no crime except to be born male. In my company are three other dead calves. One can see the four of us outside the slaughter facility from the road. The small slaughterhouse is close to the big dairy farm. Our bodies are useless because we didn’t even make it alive to be killed. This is a USDA inspected killing place, and our dead bodies cannot be used unless freshly murdered.

We are newborn calves who did make it to the slaughter facility alive. You can hear us crying piteously from the road. We are crying because we were taken from our mothers, put in a truck and transported to this place. They keep taking members of our group away never to be seen alive again. We are frightened.  There is the smell of death everywhere in this place.  Who is there to comfort us?   Who is there to help us?


Read more about the lives of dairy cows and calves

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