Sad Cow Finds Happiness When Reunited With Beloved Companion
The Gentle Barn is a sanctuary where abused animals can heal themselves and help others. Located a few miles southeast of Nashville, it’s an idyllic spot for animals who’ve had a tough life.
Yet when Maybelle the dairy cow arrived in March 2016, she was sad. People were confused. Instead of being milked all day, she could graze, sleep, and enjoy the sunshine. What was the problem?
Through word of mouth, the team at Gentle Barn found out that a dairy cow named Maybelle was about to be “retired.” In the world of farming, “retirement” for dairy cows usually means being slaughtered. However, after many years of faithfully serving a local family with milk, they wanted something else for Maybelle.
Since they were a religious family, everyone got together and prayed for some kind of solution. Shortly thereafter, the folks at Gentle Barn contacted them with an offer to take care of Maybelle.
The Dairy Industry
Maybelle was part of a small, loving family. Unfortunately, many other dairy cows are not. Instead, they are slotted into the questionable practices of the dairy industry. For many cows, this means getting pregnant every year so that milk can be produced.
Shortly after they give birth, the newborn calves are taken away for slaughter. Their meat is known as “veal.” The soft, smushy quality of the meat results from the fact that calves are kept in small spaces which stunts their muscle development.
Sad Early Days
Andrea Burritt, the manager of Gentle Barn in Tennessee, said that Maybelle just kept “crying and crying” during her first few days at the sanctuary. It was hard to watch. Instead of enjoying her new life, Maybelle paced back and forth across the pasture and cried.
It wasn’t the first time Burritt had seen that kind of behavior. She recalled how a previous cow, separated from her calf, had wailed and wailed. But Maybelle didn’t have a calf, at least as far as the staff knew.
It was very hard to watch, Burritt recalled. Maybelle would just sit there, stare you right in the eye, and scream. Something was clearly wrong, yet they couldn’t find out by asking Maybelle. Instead, they had to investigate for themselves.
Before she came to Gentle Barn, Maybelle was owned by a Mennonite family. Since they didn’t have phones, the staff couldn’t call them up to check. So, Gentle Barne’s co-founder Jay Weiner decided to drive there (with a trailer) to see if he could find some answers.
When Jay Weiner pulled into the Mennonite farm where Maybelle used to live, he met up with the farm owners. Jay told them that Maybelle seemed sad and asked if she had a calf. To his amazement, the farmer confirmed that she did, and introduced Jay to Miles, a 9-month-old calf.
On their farm, Maybelle and Miles always lived in separate spaces. Although they couldn’t be right next to each other, both mother and son were always within sight — and, more importantly — hearing distance from each other.
Together but Apart
Jay was thrilled to have found Maybelle’s calf and knew he had to reunite them. Since the Mennonite family already gave Maybelle to the sanctuary, Jay knew they were kindhearted people. So, he negotiated a bit with the farmer.
After hearing Jay’s concerns and balancing them with his own, the farmer decided that letting Miles live with Maybelle was the best choice. Jay was ecstatic. He called up Andrea to let her know the good news, and then guided Miles into the trailer.
Reuniting Mother and Child
When Jay drove back to the Gentle Barn with Miles in tow, everyone was excited. Burritt ran over to Maybelle and let her know that they found her baby. Once she saw the trailer pulling into the barn, Maybelle ran over.
Immediately upon driving into the pasture, Maybelle started calling out to Miles, and Miles returned the favor. The second Miles was freed from the trailer, he galloped over to his mom Maybelle. It was an emotional scene, and there wasn’t a dry eye around.
Recognizing Each Other
According to Burritt, Maybelle and Miles’ reunion was nothing short of remarkable. As soon as Maybelle caught sight of Miles, she recognized him immediately. He did the same. To be absolutely certain, however, Maybelle gave Miles a thorough once-over to make sure it was really him.
Once she was satisfied that it was, they both took a deep breath and walked off together into the Tennessee sunshine. It was a truly heartwarming moment and one that affirmed the deep bond between a mother and her calf.
Cows have a unique way of recognizing their calves that relies on their sense of smell, sound, and touch. They may lick and nuzzle each other, make and respond to unique sounds, and use their powerful noses to sniff out a particular scent.
Once the mother cow recognizes her calf, they form an unbreakable bond that lasts a lifetime. This bond is incredibly strong and allows the mother cow to protect and nurture her calf, while also teaching them important life skills.
Spending Time Together
After being reunited, Maybelle the mom and Miles the calf spent all their time together. They walked around the pasture, grazed a bit, and simply enjoyed being in each other’s presence. Cows are well-known to be friendly, playful, and social.
This is especially true for mothers and their kids. Since cows have their own unique personalities, some are more social (and more talkative) than others, but in general, the majority enjoy being around their best friends and their family – just like humans.
For the Love of Grazing
Burritt said that the two loved being together. The effect on Maybelle was immediate. When she first arrived, she was sad and had no appetite. Once Miles showed up, she was overjoyed and immediately set off to graze with him.
Cows love to graze. In fact, over the course of a year, the average cow-calf pair can graze between 1.5 and 2 acres! This ends up being about 2% of their own body weight every day. The only thing they love more than eating is eating with each other.
After a full day of grazing together, Burritt and the Gentle Barn staff decided to put mother Maybelle and son Miles in the same stall. That way they could be together and groom each other during the night.
For cows, grooming is more than one behavior. It can include everything from licking, shaking, and pawing to scratching with hooves and horns. Cows, like humans, are complicated and intelligent creatures who like to be near those they love. As you might have guessed, Maybelle didn’t cry that night.
No More Crying
Not only that, but Maybelle didn’t cry the following morning, day, or night either. Maybelle and her lovely son Miles share a bond that, when broken, left her in tears. Now that he was safely returned and the bond was fixed, all those tears went away for good.
The tears were replaced by fun times and happiness. To Maybelle, having her son back made life much better. Now, she can really cherish — in a cow-ish sort of way — their life at the Gentle Barn.
Maybelle reuniting with Miles wasn’t the only happy news for the cow-calf pair. In fact, it turns out that Miles was going to have a new sibling. When Maybelle arrived at Gentle Barn, she was already a few months pregnant.
Cows, like humans oddly enough, are pregnant for a little over 9 months. In September 2016, Maybelle’s nine months were up, and she gave birth to a beautiful little female calf. The Gentle Barn staff decided to call her Eclipse.
Eclipse is Born
When cows give birth, the calves usually lie on the ground completely still. Shortly thereafter, the moms usually lick their young to clean them a bit. This instinctual process is what gets the calves to start moving.
For Eclipse, this meant raising her head and opening her eyes. Less than an hour later, she was ready to try standing. After a few attempts, she got the hang of it. Then, with a little help from Maybelle, Eclipse began to nurse until her belly was full.
Brother and Sister
Big brother Miles and little sister Eclipse get along perfectly. Alongside grooming each other to show affection, they also play quite a lot. Although cows regardless of age show a fondness for playing, this is particularly true for the young ones.
They love nothing more than to playfully jump and run around the pasture, chase each other while doing the same, or even pretend to fight. Some even enjoy playing with balls and other toys. Since Miles knows Eclipse is much smaller, however, he makes sure to be gentle.
Causing a (Playful) Ruckus
Alongside being a great older brother, Miles is also quite a good teacher according to Burritt. Miles enjoys showing Eclipse the metaphorical ropes — that is, teaching her how to play and, of course, how to be a bit goofy.
Their form of goofiness includes running around as fast as they can for no other reason than the fact that it’s fun. Plenty of other animals (including humans) do this as well. Miles and Eclipse also like to push the wheelbarrows together.
A Lovely Feeling
As you probably guessed, Andrea Burritt, Jay Weiner, and the staff at The Gentle Barn are huge animal lovers. Working at an animal sanctuary makes them really appreciate how special these animals are — especially when they’re free to do as they please.
So, seeing Maybelle, Miles, and Eclipse form one big happy family brings joy to their hearts — and, often, tears to their eyes. For Maybelle to enjoy the rest of her days grazing, sleeping, and enjoying time with her two calves is simply remarkable.
In reflecting on the success they’ve had with Maybelle, Miles, and Eclipse, Andrea Burritt said, “It’s what we want for them.” As the name suggests, The Gentle Barn’s larger mission is about creating a more gentle world.
That starts by creating a world where moms have the means and ability to raise their young — regardless of species. For Burritt, the important part is that families (both animal and human) have the opportunity to stay together. That, in a nutshell, is what Gentle Barn is trying to do.
The Big Picture
The Gentle Barn began in 1999 on a half-acre property in California. Years later, it opened a new branch in Tennessee with the same mission of providing abused or elderly animals with a better life. Nowadays, it has over 900 volunteers helping them carry out that mission.
Although providing Maybelle, Miles, and Eclipse with food and a safe place to live does cost a bit of money, it’s all worth it in the end because the cows provide the staff with something priceless: happiness and a sense of meaning.