Heifer calf dies on way to Stroll

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BRATTLEBORO — A Jersey heifer calf from Spring Brook Farm in Reading, the site of the Farms for City Kids Foundation and the maker of nationally award-winning cheese, died Saturday morning while being transported to the Strolling of the Heifers, the Stroll's veterinarian said Sunday.

Dr. Stephen Major said the calf, which he estimated was between three to six months old, and had been weaned, was discovered deceased in the livestock trailer, which brought the heifer calf and about eight other Jersey heifers from the farm on Saturday morning.

He said the calf appeared in good health otherwise, but he said he did not perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death because of time constraints. He said the children from Farms for City Kids were there when the heifers were being unloaded and were devastated by the death.

"It was so, so sad for the kids," Major said.

He said the calf was on a halter and had been tied with other heifers to the side of the trailer, but had fallen. He said it didn't appear as if its neck was broken. "Its head got caught somehow," he said.

He said in his 18 years working with the Strolling of the Heifers, this was the first death or serious injury. He said there have been minor injuries to the animals over the years, often while transporting them. He noted that transportation always poses risks for animals.

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Major, of Westminster West, works for Green Mountain Bovine and Equine Veterinarian Clinic in West Chesterfield, N.H. He said he treated a couple of heifers for minor scrapes that morning.

He said Spring Brook Farm is a regular participant in the Strolling of the Heifers, with the children who attend the special farm program at the nonprofit organization often walking in the parade with their heifers. According to Spring Brook Farm's website, it encompasses more than 1,000 acres with more than 100 registered Jerseys in Reading, a small town between Woodstock and Weathersfield in Windsor County.

Major said it took about an hour for the farm truck to drive to the Brattleboro parade, and the calf's death was discovered once farmers started unloading the animals. Efforts to reach the farm were unsuccessful Sunday.

Peter Stickney, farm manager for the Putney School Farm and organizer of dairy animals for the Stroll, confirmed the death of the calf. "It was a bummer," he said, noting that Major was involved in unloading the animals.

Orly Munzing, the founder and spokeswoman for the Strolling of the Heifers, didn't return emails Sunday seeking information about the incident.

Major said Spring Brook Farm is "a real nice place" and takes good care of its animals. "It's so unfortunate," he said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com.


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