What you are about to read is a mix between facts and assumptions based on the facts. The facts come in two forms: those specific to Cora and those specific to the industries she has lived within. This is not a pretty story and if you don’t like the idea of an animal enduring pain and exploitation, this may not be something you want to read.
Cora Cow-conut has a unique story in that she truly has evaded slaughter … twice. To be rescued from death once is a story in itself – and many sanctuaries have these stories, each one unique to the animal that possesses it. In Cora’s case … she escaped slaughter twice.
This post is to try and piece together what she has experienced in her life, starting at birth. For all she has endured, we have to remember that she is only three years old.
Fact: Cora was born on April 1, 2017. Of course, she wasn’t known as Cora then. She was 5454. We know nothing of her mother or her father … but we know she was a dairy cow born into the dairy industry. Her father was most likely artificially stimulated and his semen captured to be later forcefully inseminated into Cora’s mother.
When she was born she was most likely taken from her mother – the sole reason for dairy cows is to get the milk from the mother and you can’t get the milk if the baby is drinking it. There are some smaller farms that will leave the baby with the mother to nurse at first and there are other farms that put a nose clip on the baby so it cannot drink from his or her mother. We don’t know which kind of farm Cora was on – but because her tail is docked, I would assume it was a larger farm where she would have been separated at birth.
So let’s talk tail docking.
When you are driving around the countryside and see a cow, you are used to seeing a tail: a long hair-covered tail with a tuft of longer hair at the end. They use the tail to swat flies away.
Because Cora is missing the majority of her tail, as her caretakers, we will need to purchase extra accommodations to ensure she is not irritated too badly by flies. Unfortunately, because she is missing most of her tail, whatever we are able to do will not be enough. She will still end up being irritated by flies.
So… the docking procedure – at around age 12-18 months, which coincides to the rough estimate of time the females are artificially inseminated for the first time:
The cow’s tail is docked using a rubber ring, a sharp knife or a hot docking iron. Because the procedure is performed without anaesthetic or pain relief, the cow experiences acute pain. The cow may also experience chronic pain due to inflammation and lesions caused by the procedure (e.g. nerve tumours).Citation from RSPCA:
I cannot imagine the pain Cora endured because someone thought it was good for them… and by them I mean the humans, not the cow. I can only imagine she cried out in extreme pain because no anesthesia was used. Animals are commodities in the animal industry – she was an “it” to them. She was simply “5454.”
So why dock the tail? It is human convenience, as you can read from the OSU website:
Farmers suggest that the practice of tail docking reduces the transmission of diseases carried by cows, such as Leptospirosis, to workers. Producers also suggest docking improves ease of milking, and makes milking more comfortable for the workers because the shortened tail is less likely to hit people. Importantly, docking is also thought to improve cow cleanliness and udder health and hygiene, thereby decreasing somatic cell count (SCC) and the risk of mastitis.Citation from OSU:
I’m genuinely not sure if its beneficial to be born a female calf in the dairy industry. The females are taken from their mothers, just like the males; however, they are put into a never ending cycle of forced insemination, birth, having their baby taken away, and then milked on big machines – all the while being hit, shocked, and beaten by the workers.
The male calves are taken from their mothers – but as you can imagine, if the cow is a commodity, what use does a male calf bring the dairy industry? Male calves are usually separated from their mother – also at birth, and then either shot in the head or sold for veal. Those options are at the discretion of the farm (big, small, local, global). I guess there is the option to be allowed to grow up and be used as a bull; unfortunately, this means he will be continually artificially stimulated to ejaculation via electric shock applied inside the anus.
I’m not sure which is worse …
Back to Cora … to recap: on birth, she was most likely removed from her mother and raised on a bottle with formula. Around age 1 when it was time to artificially inseminate her for the first time, she had her tail cut off without anesthesia.
The story then has a gap – a series of time where we can only speculate.
We know the intent do breed and milk her was there, indicated by her tail being docked, we just don’t know what happened between the time she was tail docked and when she was sent for slaughter.We don’t know if she gave birth to any babies or if she had/has reproductive problems. We don’t know if she just doesn’t produce enough milk if she did give birth. Maybe the farm just ended up with too many cows.
What we do know is that for some reason, shortly before October 2019, she was labeled as useless. She was a product that was not meeting expectation – whatever that expectation was. Because of this, the farm where she was a dairy cow decided she needed to be culled from the herd. Culled is a term of convenience for farmers – to cull an animal is to get rid of what you don’t want or what you don’t need … to the animal, cull means death.
She was sent to auction for slaughter – her one last use to the farm because she was being sold. It was at that auction, that the university decided to buy her so that she could begin the next stage of her life as a lab animal. Once purchased away from death for the first time, she was given a hoof trim, various vaccinations, and tested for critical diseases in cows. Cora passed those tests with flying colors. These records are how we know roughly when the university purchased her.
Cora, still 5454 to the university, was used to teach vet students large animal anatomy. The students learned how to handle and treat certain issues for bovine. And from the students, she picked up some names like Popsicle and Coconut. And this is how her time from October-ish 2019 until March 2020 was lived.
And then the university decided she was no longer needed – useless again.
And we all know what useless means – it means she was going to be sent back to the auction for slaughter. This time she was being sold to regain assets lost by the university having purchased her the first time. Her life fell into the hands of policy.
Fortunate for Cora – not everyone at the university thought she was useless. There were several students that wanted to save Cora and one in particular, a vet student Cora met in anatomy class, was determined to save her life.
Alexandria reached out to several sanctuaries – Willowbrook included. Some responded they did not have space and others didn’t respond at all. I know its a grey area about purchasing animals away from slaughter because in the end, we are just giving money back to the industry to keep doing what they are doing.
But how do you tell the animal that you need to “prove a point” at the cost of their life?
While we, as Willowbrook, were not able to financially support the purchase of Cora – we definitely were ok with an owner surrender from Alexandria to our sanctuary. And that is what happened.
I tell the story of the auction in another post that outlines the timeline of Cora going from the university to the sanctuary.
But the important takeaway is that Cora was seen as an individual and Alexandria did all she could to save Cora’s life. She raised the money via GoFundMe, Venmo, and a little via Facebook. She had others giving her money to help – over 100 people came together to support Alexandria in her mission to save Cora’s life.
Cora escaped slaughter for a second time on April 13th, 2020. From this day forward, we know Cora’s story because she is here with us. She eats grass and chews her cud, she relaxes in the sun and shades herself when she feels like it. She has nibbled at leaves on the trees and called over to the neighbor cow herd … and she has played with Charlie, the mini donkey, that shares the pasture with her. She runs, trots, scratches, and moo’s – all at her own discretion. No more expectations other than we expect ourselves to be good stewards for Cora – to show her love and give her the care she deserves.
I would like to finish with one more fact about the industry.
Go over to Google, I’ll wait here. Search “average lifespan of a dairy cow” – you will be presented with a very bold answer:
The average life span of dairy cows in the U.S. today is 4 to 6 years old, however with a natural life expectancy up to 15-20 years, it is not unheard of to find a 10 or 15 year old cow still milking on a dairy.Citation from Cornell:
The reason the lifespan in the dairy industry is so low is because they are culled as soon as they become useless to the industry. Many cows breakdown to the point of being unable to stand and they are carted off, or in most cases chained and drug, to a trailer where they are loaded for auction. They are slaughtered.
Cora is only 3 and had she stayed in the dairy industry, she would not have lived much more than three more years if she were lucky. But now that she is at sanctuary, provided no accidents or illness, she has the potential to live to be 20 years.
Cora’s lifespan has changed significantly because we have changed the humans she is around. You can help change the lives of animals in the dairy industry by simply choosing to not consume dairy. It’s so much better for your health (you can Google that too!) and it helps reduce the demand on that industry. Less demand = less cows being subjected to the cruelty generated by human greed.
As for Cora, we are simply thankful that we can help the remainder of her life, whatever that is, be one that is cruelty-free … one that is full of love.