In the United States, milk is big business. In 2016 around 96 million metric tons of the calcium-rich liquid were produced in the country. And a recent survey discovered that more than half of the American public choose dairy products when it comes to getting their protein.
In order to keep up with demand, milk production is therefore on the rise. Indeed, as of February 2017, there were more than 40,000 licensed dairy farms in the U.S. And for the seventh year in a row, these businesses produced more milk than they had done the previous year.
Of these dairy farms, 99 percent are owned and managed by families. This means that multiple generations are able to grow up watching, and learning about, where their food comes from. But while that’s fine for many humans, for some of the cattle it’s a different story.
Cows need to have young in order to produce milk. But in the dairy industry, the normal procedure is for a mother to be split up from her calf shortly after giving birth. The two are, in fact, typically forced apart just 12 hours after the calf is born.
What’s more, after the calves have been split apart from their mothers, they are often sent for slaughter at just two months old. This is especially true of male calves, since they are considered to be of little value when compared to females. So, aged just eight weeks, the males become veal, and then the cycle begins again.
Unfortunately, this fate is exactly the one that befell all of the calves produced by one particular cow in the U.S. Maybelle had spent the majority of her life living on a dairy farm, producing milk for an American family. The time had come for her to retire, though. And yet while this would normally have meant her being trucked off to the slaughterhouse, it was at this point that The Gentle Barn stepped in.
The Gentle Barn prides itself on offering refuge to animals that have suffered abuse and have nowhere else to go. Its furry residents are then used to help inspire children who have suffered a similar fate – or to offer any animal lovers the chance of a cuddle with a cow.
The sanctuary was set up by Ellie Laks in 1999. Growing up, Laks had always had a penchant for all things animal-related. So, together with her husband, Jay Weiner, Laks sought to provide a safe haven for neglected or unwanted animals – and a safe haven is exactly what the couple intended to offer Maybelle.
Laks and Weiner had gotten wind of Maybelle’s predicament and set out to help. They had been told that the animal in question was a dairy cow who was about to be retired – and the pair knew all too well what “retired” really meant.
However, the owners of the farm where Maybelle lived were hoping to find an alternative option for her. And, one way or another, along came The Gentle Barn. So it was that Laks and Weiner went out to the farm to collect Maybelle – and at first everything appeared to go nice and smoothly. The couple made their way back to the sanctuary with Maybelle in tow.
In a video posted on the rescue center’s website, Laks can then be seen slowly leading the nervous-looking cow into her new barn stall. And after some encouragement, Maybelle is subsequently shown enjoying some food while settling into her new surroundings. However, the relative calm was to be short-lived.
Shortly after arriving at The Gentle Barn, Maybelle began crying incessantly. “She kept crying and pacing and calling out,” recalled Laks, who knew that something wasn’t right. Indeed, she and Weiner were certain that the only time cows cry like this is when they’re looking for their offspring.
So, Weiner headed back to Maybelle’s old farm in search of some answers – and lo and behold, he discovered that she did indeed have a baby. Maybelle’s former owners had initially planned to keep the nine-month-old male calf. But when they heard that his mother had been pining for her child, they readily agreed to give the calf up.
As it turned out, although Maybelle and her calf had been kept in different pastures, they’d still been within earshot of each other. However, when Maybelle was moved to The Gentle Barn and could no longer hear her little one, her mothering instincts kicked in and she began pining for him.
Happily, though, mother and son were soon reunited. And when Weiner arrived back at The Gentle Barn with the calf, Maybelle clearly couldn’t contain her excitement. As soon as Weiner’s vehicle pulled up, the momma cow began calling out to her son, who obligingly mooed back. The two then continued to communicate back and forth as Weiner unloaded the smaller animal from his trailer.
Then, as the gate to the field was opened, the calf ran towards his mother. Maybelle likewise seemed delighted to be reunited with her offspring – and she wasn’t the only one who was pleased. You see, when Laks heard the good news, she was overcome with emotion and began to cry. Yet the emotional reunion wasn’t the end of the story.
You see, when Laks and Weiner first rescued Maybelle, they discovered that she had been kept in a field with a male cow. This meant, of course, that there was a chance she may be pregnant. And Laks seemed overjoyed at the thought of this mama cow being able to keep her final calf – from the very beginning of their mother-calf relationship.
The animal lovers therefore subsequently called in an expert to confirm whether their new addition really was expecting. But after examining Maybelle, the veterinarian wasn’t so sure. Laks and Weiner would have to wait until the following day for the blood test results to come back.
Then, after what we’re sure must have been a long and anxious night, Laks put in a call to see if the results were in. And in a video posted on the sanctuary’s website, The Gentle Barn’s founder is seen looking totally stunned as she reveals that their cow really is going to have another baby.
So, on September 16, 2016, Eclipse was born – and just 45 minutes after the birth, the newborn calf was trying to stand. What’s more, not only did Maybelle get to keep her very last baby, but her infant came into the world during a rare Harvest Moon lunar eclipse – hence his name – making the event that much more special.