WATCH: Busy Bulls Thwart Cow Contraception: 5 Baby Bovines Welcomed!

WATCH: Busy Bulls Thwart Cow Contraception: 5 Baby Bovines Welcomed!

We were delighted when baby Noah was born in late summer, but we were firmly resolved he would be the last bovine born at Freedom Farms. Little did we know, the cows already had other plans!

Our biggest priority at Freedom Farms is, of course, caring for our wonderful animals. Our 16 adult cows, one donkey, and one horse, as well as our peacocks and dozens of members of various wild animal species, deserve the very best care — and we have been busy giving it to them! 

The cattle have presented our biggest challenge in terms of transitioning our central California property from a personal pleasure ranch to an animal sanctuary. True sanctuaries do not allow any breeding, in order to prioritize space for animals who already exist and need homes. 

Though baby Noah delighted us last year, his arrival underscored the urgency of managing our semi-wild herd of cattle. Before finding a more permanent solution, we had to separate the boys from the girls — which is much easier said than done!

When we first acquired the property, the cows, horse, and donkey all mingled together in a field in front of the house. The former ranch owner and legendary Hollywood icon, Debbie Reynolds, enjoyed seeing and hearing the animals from her bedroom. 

It was an idyllic scene, but problematic. Mixed, unneutered animals mean unchecked breeding. It was also hard on the land which was getting degraded with so many animals living in one concentrated area.

We figured out a plan to spread the animals between pastures. Once it was settled with a place for everyone set to go, we entered the field, hay in hand. Our strategy was to entice the bulls out — and it worked all too well! 

Our bravest staff stood by an exit into the adjoining pasture, while the bulls ran headlong at their hands full of hay. It took nerves of steel to open the gate at just the right moment to let just the bulls pass, one by one! 

Once the boys moo-ved one pasture over, we corralled them into a smaller pen in the center using a big pile of hay as a lure. 

Once the bulls were safely munching away inside the central pen, it was time to lead the females through and across to a further adjoining pasture.

What we didn’t know is that we were rearranging more bovines than we thought!

Imagine our surprise when nine months later, we arrived at the new cow pasture to meet a brand new baby… and then another… and another and another and another!

All in all, five babies were born. Four boys and one little girl. All are healthy, delightful, and full of curiosity. It is pure joy to watch them skip across the pasture, drink their mom’s milk freely, and enjoy a life that will never be at risk of slaughter. 

Baby boys raise the question again of neutering. It's a safe procedure to sterilize bulls when they're young, so that's what we'll do when they’re old enough. For the older bulls, it is a little more complicated. 

Once a bull reaches maturity, neutering him becomes dangerous. In the worst case, he can bleed to death. Needless to say, we'll be evaluating whether surgery is the best option, or if the fence should permanently support their abstinence!

With a total of 20 cattle now, we are at our limit for how many bovines we can have on irrigated pastures. Thankfully, the wet winter and spring have completely filled our natural aquifer – our creeks are running and we even have natural seeps! Cranes, geese, and baby frogs are enjoying the time of plenty, enchanting us with their grace and beauty. 

While the sanctuary springs forth with life aplenty, the cattle are enjoying the bounteous grass and fragrant wild herbs, including lavender. However, in California, we must plan carefully for extreme scenarios.

We already have a solar farm on the property which produces electricity. This year we’ll be taking another couple of serious steps toward self-sufficiency. For human workers and visitors, we have begun by planting potatoes, kale, arugula, and carrots. For the cattle, we will plant hay to sustain them through winter. 

Our vision is to establish a permaculture center. We want to show guests how to grow healthy, nourishing vegan food as part of a flourishing natural ecosystem. Permaculture helps animals and the environment, rather than harming them. 

As well as eventually establishing our own main food supply, we are taking design advice for our plan to build Comfort Cove to protect the cattle from California’s extreme weather. 

For the time being, the bulls are enjoying hanging out with Oadie the retired racehorse and Eeyora the donkey in their communal barn, as they please, and the cows and their babies have plenty of shade and natural shelter thanks to the beautiful mature oak trees while they wait for their own barn.

It’s been a trip to spend time with these wonderful animals. Cows have very soulful eyes and the way they stare at you is really quite something. I love learning about them. 

– Dr. Marilyn Kroplick

We are hard at work getting Freedom Farms ready for a raft of programs aligned with our mission to help animals, activists, and the environment. We cannot wait to welcome you! 

If you have been moved by our story, want to support our new arrivals, or help fund our Comfort Cove, please donate here.

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