When most people look at a cow, all they see is a potential meal. Gruesome as it seems, we have been conditioned by society to delegate certain animals to serve different purposes. Some animals are to be loved, some consumed, others feared, and more still are designated to entertain us. Unfortunately for cows, their “purpose” boils down to either milk machine or meal.
The average dairy cow can only expect to live up to five years before being sent to slaughter, while meat cows can live anywhere from two months to two years, but never beyond that. According to PETA, every year “4.2 million cows suffer and die for the meat and dairy industry.” That’s no small statistic and while the future for cows raised in the industrial agriculture system is bleak, every now and then a kind soul takes interest in one of these wonderful animals and they are pulled from this vicious cycle.
This is precisely what happened to Christmas and Charlie, two cows that have found themselves in the loving arms of Tamala Lester and the other employees at The Barnyard Sanctuary.
You see, Charlie and Christmas are not your average cows. Allowed to realize their full potential with the help of The Barnyard Sanctuary, these two old friends are 17 years old and both weigh over 2,300 pounds! To put that in perspective a bit, cows raised on factory farms only grow to weigh 900 pounds, maximum. So there is no doubt, Christmas and Charlie are a pretty BIG deal.
This enormous pair did not start their lives on The Barnyard Sanctuary. Christmas, a female Holstein cow, was born on Christmas day. After birth, she was adopted as a bottle baby by a couple in Pennsylvania who owned a farm. A few months later, the couple rescued an Angus/Holstein cross steer, Charlie, to keep Christmas company.
After being hit hard by the economic down turn, the farmers who had raised Charlie and Christmas needed to give up their farm and were desperate to find a home for these two friends. Worried that auctioning the animals would only lead to their sale for slaughter, the couple sought out The Barnyard Sanctuary and finally found another loving home for their cows.
Tamala Lester, the founding director of The Barnyard Sanctuary, tells OGP that Christmas and Charlie came to the farm when it was still a “fledgling operation,” and they needed to rent extra land to house the cows. Lester describes taking on the cows as a “learning experience” filled with several “scary, now funny incidents” with the cows. Charlie and Christmas eat a combined total of five bales of hay per day, a cost that can REALLY add up – especially with their ever-growing size.
Luckily, as the sanctuary expanded, there was more room for Charlie and Christmas to graze and their large appetites can now be met with a mix of fruits and veggies, grass, and round hay bales. Lester credits the big bowls of fruit and vegetables that the cows enjoy with their weight gain of between 200 and 300 pounds (ah, the power of plants!).
Just look at Christmas’ muscles!
Charlie and Christmas have become a staple of the sanctuary, spending their days nosing around fields, keeping tabs on Lester and the rest of the sanctuary’s team.
Clearly, Christmas is ALL business:
Above all, Lester describes these amazing cows as “gentle and loving creatures” who are incredibly complex and wonderful.
“[Charlie and Christmas] can have temper tantrums and sulk, are inquisitive, love snacks, loyal to each other at all times,” she says.
Cows raised on factory farms are never allowed to be seen as the compassionate, dynamic animals they truly are and the story of Charlie and Christmas certainly proves these animals are more than a “something,” but really a “someone.”
Most cows never dream of living to the age of 17 or growing to the size of Christmas and Charlie – and knowing the pain and suffering most cows are forced to endure 17 years is unbearable. The love and compassion shown to Christmas and Charlie illustrates the amazing potential cows have if they are given the chance.
Seeing Charlie and Christmas playing on the farm, showing love, and being allowed to just be cows is a truly beautiful thing. With the help of outstanding human-beings like Tamala Lester and the employees of The Barnyard Sanctuary, these cows have become equally magnificent animals. I guess it is true: you get what you give!
Lead image Source: Tamala Lester/The Barnyard Sanctuary