Can a child stay with his mother? – Joop


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Just as with a human mother, a mother cow will do everything in her power to take care of her young. If this is not possible it will cause a lot of stress.

Last Friday, animal researcher Margaret Winker received her PhD from the University of Wageningen on researching whether long-term contact between mother cows and their calves is actually better for their well-being. Answer: Yes it has benefits, but there are also more health problems. That should be explained, because I’ve already heard that this research has been taken out of context.

About 1.6 million dairy cows live in the Netherlands. In its short life, once it is two years old, a cow is forced to give birth to a new calf every year. A cow only gives milk when it has a young one and only then can the cows produce huge amounts of milk for human consumption. In most cases, calves are removed from their mothers immediately after birth.

Most farmers say “there is no other way,” because waiting longer before separating the mother from the calf causes more stress. And they can better monitor the health of animals. But the most important argument is, of course, that calves drink milk that you can no longer sell. PhD research now published shows that calves that breastfed with their mothers grew faster because they could drink more milk. It seems logical to me.

So the researchers also noticed more health problems and more abnormal blood values. This sounds like a strong comment, which of course was immediately grabbed by some people as evidence that getting a calf out of the mother within a day is actually “very reasonable”. But this argument does not hold up. The stables are not equipped for cows with young calves. Think about the stable floor, temperature, quality, etc. And so it’s nice that a while ago, an amendment was passed by the Animal Party, whereby animals are no longer adapted to housing, but an animal shelter. The dilemma was immediately resolved. There is no problem at all. The calf belongs to its mother. You do not separate mother and child.

Parting is unbearable for both the cow and the calf. Under normal conditions, calves stay with their mothers for six to twelve months, before gradually saying goodbye. In addition, the cow, just like humans, has the so-called “cuddle hormone” oxytocin. This hormone, among other things, ensures that mother and baby miss each other. The human mother has this hormone as well. When the baby cries, the breast begins to leak milk.

Just as with a human mother, a mother cow will do everything in her power to take care of her young. If this is not possible it will cause a lot of stress. Therefore, there are various demonstrable consequences that must be detected in the mother and the baby if they separate from each other immediately after birth. For example, an increase in mobility is observed in both the mother and the young. This is most likely caused by the two searching for each other, which also leads to escape attempts. In addition, the mother cow and calf try to contact each other.

Furthermore, the animals have increased heart rate and body temperature and disturbed eating and resting patterns can be recognized. In addition, calves are often confined to ‘isolated boxes’ in their first weeks of life. Due to the absence of a mother and no contact with other calves, their social development is negatively affected. These consequences are also reflected in their behavior at a later age.

But how long should they stay with their mother? I think this is a dilemma. As far as I’m concerned, as long as the animals themselves enjoy it. I also spoke about this with Eyes on Animals, who for many years have advocated for the calf to stay with the cow. They told me that farmers who raise calves with cows see that the animals are healthy and strong. It is important in any case to wait until the calves’ stomachs are sufficiently grown, so that they can start eating grass. So as soon as a month or 3-4? But who am I to decide that?

Finally, I would say: whether it is about cows and calves, pigs and pigs, or chickens and chicks, use common sense. When it comes to dogs or cats, everyone knows how important it is for them to stay with their mother in the first months of their lives. If not, it often leads to difficult roommates in the future. Let your feelings speak at the same time. If you ask “At what age can we separate a human child from the mother?” I think and hope to put the whole of Holland on my roof. These and other animals are not as different as some people think.

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