One of the Jersey cows at my Dad's farm had her baby this week. A beautiful black and white crossbred (Holstein) heifer.
She has a healthy appetite, but Jersey cattle have been selectively bred to produce TONS more milk than a single calf can drink. Since my folks aren't too keen on milking a cow every single day for months, Dad opted for another solution.
He picked up a couple of week old Jersey Bull calves from a dairy. Bull calves aren't worth much money to a dairy - not nearly as much as a heifer.
As cute as they are, bulls don't make milk. So, they aren't any use as replacement stock. A single good bull can "service" alot of cows... so that leaves about half the calves born every year as unneeded bulls. Most dairies will sell them off cheap, to people who want to go to the effort of bottle feeding them and raising them for beef.
I've bottle feed calves before - the "fun" wears off pretty quickly. But if you have a cow that will tolerate "strange" calves nursing - its a perfect arrangement. This particular cow has proven extremely tolerant of the babies, and lets them nurse all they want.
Now.... you may be asking yourself a couple of questions at this point - assuming that your food gathering experience has consisted mainly of going to the store.
Yes, the calves are adorable. Yes, the calves will eventually be eaten. No, I don't see a conflict.
I love animals. My Parents raised me to understand that animals in your care were to be treated with patience, love, and the best care you can provide. It seems to me that some folks have become so disconnected from the natural world, that they can't wrap their minds around the fact that someone can kill and eat animals - without finding it neccessary to "hate" them. I hear some variation of that at work on an almost daily basis.
"I couldn't hunt... I'm an animal lover."
"I couldn't do what you do for a living... I'm an animal lover."
The underlying meaning, of course, is that I must hate animals in some way. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know better than lots of people how precious life is. I understand exactly what it takes to provide the meat that I eat. That's a humbling thing, realizing the cost of our own existence.
I value that.