6 min read

Viral Video Of Calf Wearing Nose Ring Has The Saddest Backstory

“It’s destroying that natural bond between them” 💔

No matter how hard he tries, this baby cow can’t nurse from his mom.

With a large plastic ring around his nose, he tries time and time again to drink some milk, but the device keeps covering his little suckling mouth.

He has no idea why.

This was the sad scene captured on video at what appears to be a dairy or beef farm — and it’s since gone viral with over 4 million views online. The calf is clearly frustrated that he’s being forced away from nursing, and Susie Coston, national shelter director for Farm Sanctuary, says there’s a heartbreaking reason why.

“The main purpose is to prevent the calves from nursing, but the reasons why depend on the type of farm and why they’re trying to wean them,” Coston told The Dodo. “Some force weaning because nursing mothers need more food, and that costs money. The other reason is that nursing keeps the mothers too thin for re-impregnation, so they want to increase the mother’s weight for the next pregnancy … They have an interest in breaking the bond between the mother and her baby because that is what is ultimately most profitable.”

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A rescued dairy cow named Maise with her newborn calf at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary | Carolyn Hamilton/Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

According to the USDA, more than 65 percent of calves born on dairy farms are separated from their mothers immediately after birth. The Humane Society of the United States notes that this abrupt separation can distress the calves, and they may cry so much that their throats become irritated and inflamed. This stress can take a toll on the calf’s immune system for several weeks, researchers found.

In the case of the beef industry, calves such as the one in the video are forcibly weaned from their mothers, sometimes using a nose plate, in order to be sent to a feedlot where they will be confined and fed a diet of grain to make them gain weight for slaughter.

The mother cows remain on the farm to continue having calf after calf in order to produce milk. When she’s too old to have babies, she will likely have the same fate as her sons.

“There are many different types of these devices besides the one shown in this video, but all are preventing the natural, instinctual behavior of nursing by making it uncomfortable or painful for the baby, the mom, or both,” Coston said. “Psychologically, it’s traumatizing because it’s destroying that natural bond between them. The cruelest part is that whatever the type of farm, whether beef or dairy, they’re always going to take the baby away from their mother, and we know that, when given the choice, moms and babies stay together their entire lives.”

Coston sees this herself each day in a rescued mother and son living at Farm Sanctuary’s New York campus. Liz the cow and her then-newborn son, Cashew, came to the sanctuary two years ago.

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Liz with Cashew after arriving at Farm Sanctuary | Farm Sanctuary

Cashew is a young adult now, but he still nurses from time to time since his mom’s still producing milk for him. Liz also became the adoptive mom of a calf named Jerome after he arrived at the sanctuary, who at the time was a newborn who had been separated from his mom at a dairy farm.

Liz, Cashew and Jerome will get to be together as a family for life — a joyful fate that the majority of cows will never get to experience.

“We’ve never separated moms from babies,” Coston said. “It’s incredible to see who these animals really are when they’re allowed to have their natural bonds and relationships.”

To support all the rescued cows at Farm Sanctuary, you can make a donation here.