In September 2020, we welcomed home the youngest member of our family at Paddington’s Farm: baby Basil!
Paddington had settled in and was the most affectionate sweet cow, but he needed a friend. Cows are herd animals and are always happier with another cow buddy. We knew it was our time to offer a safe home to another cow in danger. After keeping an eye out all summer, we answered an urgent call through social media. In dairy farms, the male babies are useless since they don’t provide milk and they offer no financial profit at a slaughterhouse until they reach a certain weight. Many small-operation farmers simply kill them after they are born. A vegan activist had the opportunity to rescued three newborn babies and was searching for sanctuaries who would give them forever homes.
We were eager to offer up our safe and loving farm to save an innocent baby. We had to prepare a space where the baby could meet Paddington over the fence line, but also have his separate space – since he was so tiny. The wonderful activist, Jason Bolalek (@jasonbolalek on instagram), made the long drive from Vermont to Virginia. He dropped two calves at a sanctuary in New Jersey and then brought Little Basil, cozied up in a pile of straw in the backseat of his car, to us.
It was quite an adjustment having a baby on the farm! We had to get used to feeding Basil his bottle three times a day, which meant a much bigger commitment from our volunteers. Baby calves usually nurse from their mothers naturally for ten months to a year, and we didn’t want to take that away from Basil, even though he had been sadly ripped away from his real mama. It was strange to buy so much cow’s milk from the grocery store! But, there’s no better reason to buy cow’s milk than for an actual baby cow who needs it. We did get funny looks checking out with nothing but a cart full of gallons of milk!
Paddington was SO visibly happy to have another cow around. They had to stay separate for a few months until Basil got big enough to interact with the larger animals, but Paddington stayed glued to the other side of the fence. They would moo to each other when they were out of sight – it was precious to see them bonding! We hadn’t heard Paddington moo since he first arrived.
We realized after a couple of days that Basil and Paddington really wanted to be together, so we started doing supervised play time every morning. After his morning bottle, Paddington would be allowed in to spend the morning with Basil. We were always with them to monitor closely, but Paddington was super gentle with Basil. It was like he knew that Basil was a baby. He would very gently put his head toward Basil and let Basil push on him. It melted our hearts to watch with what patience and kindness Paddington interacted with Basil!