61 Big Island Dairy Calves Find New Homes

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The first group of calves rescued through Hawai‘i Lava Flow Animal Rescue Network’s efforts have made their way to their new homes. On Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, 61 calves were taken from Big Island Dairy in Ōʻōkala. A dedicated group of volunteers, donors, adopters, and core team members of HLFARN all pulled together to make this incredible feat possible, all within a matter of days.

Rescued calves. Courtesy picture.

Rescuers assisted the two- and three-month old calves as they left their crates with wobbly legs and were loaded onto trailers. These crates were the only home that the calves knew during their life at the dairy, eating, drinking, sleeping, and using the restroom there. They were not accustomed to feeling grass under their feet or the sun on their face, a life that is typical of any large scale dairy operation.

Volunteers then spent the entire day (some not returning home until after midnight) distributing the calves to their new homes where adopters eagerly awaited their new charges.

Calves were placed with adopters who met a certain set of qualifications including the appropriate acreage and shelter requirements, experience with cows, and ability to financially provide for their feed and veterinary needs. In addition, adopters had to agree that the calves were to only be treated as large pets, with a guarantee that they will never be used for milk or meat.


Pictures and stories continue to come in from the initial group of 20 adopters and fosters, all illustrating just how happy the calves and their adopters are together, even when the adopters are up at dawn for early morning feedings. The calves can be seen lying in the grass, basking in the sun, and testing out their timid legs. These adopters are providing permanent, forever homes for these calves, allowing them to retire from the dairy industry into a life of peace and relaxation.

HLFARN plans to continue the rescue process, removing as many cows as possible and placing them in loving homes, but it is in need of help from the community. Those interested in helping should [email protected].

The group is looking for:

  • More quality homes to place young, weaned calves and adult heifers (on the Big Island only, shipping to other islands is not feasible),
  • More transportation volunteers—those with trailers who can help pick up and deliver cows on rescue days are the lifeblood of this operation,
  • Funds in order continue the rescue operations—HLFARN is currently paying the adoption costs, formula, feed, gas for transportation, and vet costs if necessary, upon initial adoption. Current funds are quickly depleting after the initial rescue, and to continue the work, they will need assistance from everyone, everywhere.

Donors can learn more and make a secure donation via Go Fund Me or directly to HLFARN’s fiscal sponsor, Sanctuary of Mana Keʻa Gardens (a 501(c)3 charity) via Paypal (be sure to add a note that the donation is for HLFARN).

Big Island Dairy is continuing to work with HLFARN to release cows and has also provided
additional resources by selling milk replacer and bottles, as well as some feed, at a reduced
cost, so that the group was able to provide adopters with resources to get started. In addition, they’ve provided staff that has been very helpful in the removal of the cows, creating a positive working relationship with the group.

Rescue operation background:


In May 2017, after members of the Ōʻōkala community filed several complaints to the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health, Big Island Dairy, LLC received a Notice of Violation of the federal Clean Water Act for releasing animal waste into the nearby waterways that eventually ran off into the ocean. A lawsuit ensued, resulting in Big Island Dairy announcing the closing of its operations this spring.

In January 2019, Big Island Dairy and Hawai‘i State Department of Health reached a settlement. One of the stipulations of the settlement is for Big Island Dairy to reduce and eliminate the number of animals that they have. When a dairy closes its operations, the cows are usually auctioned off and distributed to slaughterhouses and other dairies. Big Island Dairy has roughly 2600 cows, heifers and calves, to remove from the premises. A recent timeline agreed upon as part of the suit will see milking operations end by Feb. 28, 2019.

Members of the Hawai‘i Lava Flow Animal Rescue Network (HLFARN), one of the groups instrumental in the rescue operations of animals in last year’s Lower Puna lava flow, are currently engaged in an effort to save some of these animals. After initial meetings with representatives of the dairy, HLFARN received permission to remove a number of the cows for a negotiated fee.

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