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Update on Big Island Dairy Cow Rescue

February 4, 2019, 12:34 PM HST
* Updated February 4, 5:55 PM
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It’s been three weeks since the Hawai‘i Lava Flow Animal Rescue Network (HLFARN) removed 61 calves from the shuttering Big Island Dairy and moved them into their new homes. The majority of the new homes were those of private citizens who took in two or more calves (cows are herd animals and don’t do well without the company of other cows) and animal sanctuaries. All new homes have committed to providing these female calves with forever homes where they can live out their lives in peace without being used for meat or milk.

These first few weeks have seen adopters bottle feeding the young calves daily, beginning to introduce them to solid foods, and introducing them to other animals around their homes (after a period of quarantine). In addition, the calves are acclimating to life outside of a steel crate, trading their concrete floors for grass, straw, and sunshine and becoming very attached to their new human caretakers.

BIN File photo

“From our exciting night delivery, to cutting off ear tags, to watching them grow, run and jump, this is truly a rewarding experience,” rescuer Suzanne Sinclair said. “They love chin scratches and head rubs. These girls are home and they’ll later join our three rescue steers.”

The closing of the dairy resulted in more than 2,800 cows needing to find a new home or be shipped off to slaughter or placement at other dairies. The rescue group quickly mobilized to raise funds for the purchase of as many cows as possible, as well as attempting to find them homes. This all-volunteer network, consisting of caring people from all walks of life and different parts of the Big Island, purchased the calves, transported them to their new homes, and continues to provide support to the adopters after placement.

In addition, HLFARN has provided veterinary assistance to adopters for two weeks after placement. Medical issues that the calves faced after being at the dairy include issues with their joints, digestion problems, hernias, and a large abscess on the neck of one of the calves. With extra love, dedicated care, and medical attention, all 61 cows are happy and healthy at their new homes.


HLFARN’s next rescue day is planned for the middle of February (exact date still to be determined). The group has already purchased 35 pairs of moms and calves, for a total of 70 cows to be removed and placed in new homes. A committed group of volunteers assists with the planning, logistics, transportation, and delivery of the calves.


After this group of cows, HLFARN plans to remove at least one more group and will continue to remove more as homes and funds come available. In order to continue removing cows and saving them from slaughter, the group is still looking for Big Islanders who can provide homes. Those interested in learning more about qualifying for adoption can email [email protected].

In addition, the group is still fundraising in order to remove as many cows as possible in coming weeks. Funds also go towards gas for transporters, feed for the first few weeks, and veterinary assistance for the first two weeks, if needed. Donors can donate at 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). HLFARN absolutely would not be able to engage in these rescue operations without the generosity of so many incredible donors who have helped raise the funds to make this possible.

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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