Bovine Introductions

Elsa cried all night. Since she was so stressed, we decided to let her out today rather than wait a few more weeks. When the gate opened, Elsa immediately left her pasture and started exploring. Nicholas saw her and made a beeline in her direction. Love at first sight! According to Nicholas, anyways. In Elsa's opinion, not so much.

Animal Place has a small herd of cattle, five in all. Well, six with Elsa. With the exception of Sadie, the other cattle have essentially grown up here. Introductions went smoothly with Nicholas, Summer and Freedom because cattle tend to accept younger animals with great ease. Sadie spent nearly two years socially isolated while her mastitis was treated but when she finally was released - she booked it for Howie, touched noses and that was that, they were best friends for life.

And then there is Elsa. Her behavior is shockingly different than previous cattle. We're not sure if this is because she is stressed out (likely) or if this is just her personality (also likely). Initially, she ignored Nicholas who followed her while she explored the sanctuary. When she met Howie, she didn't just touch noses, maybe push heads together - she head-butted him and tried to shove him away. At 13 and 2,200 lbs, Howie is arthritic and, tragically cannot hold his own against a 900lb 15-yr-old sassy cow. He went and hid behind Sadie. Elsa tried to greet Sadie the same way as she did Howie but even with a bum back leg, Sadie held her own and was not going to be pushed around by this newcomer. Elsa backed down and then promptly head-butted tiny Freedom into the creek bed. Unperturbed, Freedom sniffed Elsa and then took off for the hills with Summer. I couldn't blame him.

Elsa isn't the stereotypical docile cow who gets along with everyone. She's pushy and rude. Her small stature means she maneuvers more easily than Sadie and Howie, for sure. This is as much a new experience for us as it is for Elsa (though arguably less stressful for us than Elsa). It's only been a few hours since her release, so it's only fair to give her time to calm down and find her place within the herd (right now, she's engaged in a heated shoving match with Nicholas). We'll keep an eye on her, especially when she interacts with Sadie and Howie who cannot suffer a fall in their current states (Howie is pretty arthritic and heavy, Sadie has a permanent rear-leg limp).

This too shall pass for Elsa. But it's hard not to think about the unfairness of it all. Elsa should have spent her last few years on that little school farm with the cattle and people she knew and loved. Even the smallest, least cruel farm sends animals who have years left to live to slaughter. For at every farm, the value of an animal is not in how pushy she is or if she loves back scratches or how gentle he is with the calves, it's in how much milk, how many babies, how many pounds of flesh they produce.

Nicholas tries to bond with Elsa Nicholas follows Elsa Elsa and Chester touch noses