Rescue Story

The Oklahoma Cows: Dozens Rescued After Farmer’s Change of Heart

Easton steer at Farm Sanctuary

Rescue Story

The Oklahoma Cows: Dozens Rescued After Farmer’s Change of Heart

The Someone Project

Learn more about the rich emotional lives of cows by downloading the white paper Thinking Cows: A Review of Cognition, Emotion, and the Social Lives of Domestic Cows.

Easton and Savic, two Longhorn-cross steers, descend from generations of cattle raised for beef.

They grew up on an Oklahoma farm, spending most of the time on the range with their herd. They’re a curious but cautious pair, eager to mingle with other cows but preferring a healthy distance from people — not from fear, but by choice. And they can choose how to live because one farmer let them live, rather than using them for a livelihood.

Farmer Dan’s change of heart

Dan joined the farming scene later in life — spending nearly a decade building his herd. It was a business investment: When the animals reached a certain age and weight, they were sent to slaughter. This typically takes less than three years in the beef industry. Meanwhile, cows can live into their twenties.

Over the years, however, Dan formed a growing attachment to the herd — especially the cows and bulls used for breeding since they lived there longer than the children sent to slaughter. Impressed by their intelligence, he began to reconsider his relationship with them. Ultimately, Dan decided he could not, in good faith, send thinking, feeling beings to their deaths.

At the same time, he worried about how they’d coexist long-term. Dan and his wife were getting older and found it harder to feed the herd and provide the animals with individualized care. They also struggled with the growing costs of this care: Ongoing drought has increased the cost of feed, and there were more mouths to feed now that they no longer sent cows to slaughter.

When he called us for help last April, there were around 60 cows in need.

Responsible Rescue

Our team was moved by Dan’s change of heart and dedication to finding safe homes for his friends. Unfortunately, we’ve seen many cases where guardians, overwhelmed by care needs they can no longer meet, feel they have no other options but to abandon, sell, or kill their animals themselves. There’s also a shortage of safe, loving homes, even when people know where to look — like within Farm Sanctuary’s Farm Animal Adoption Network (FAAN).

FAAN is a nationwide collective of sanctuaries and adopters providing safe, loving homes for animals in need. By working together, we can rescue and care for more animals than one team could do alone. Still, our rescue work cannot offset the systemic harms caused by animal agriculture, which kills nearly ten billion animals each year and breeds billions more as replacements. Even when operating at capacity, our shared network can only help a tiny percentage of animals in need.

We also practice responsible rescue, meaning we won’t receive, refer, or place more animals than a home can accommodate.

Farm Sanctuary cares for nearly 700 animals between our New York and California shelters. Most remain in our care until they pass, so we have limited space for newcomers each year.

With such a large number of cows needing homes, no single provider in our network could responsibly take on Dan’s entire herd. Though difficult, a more realistic outcome would be to place bonded groups among as many FAAN homes as possible.


  • Farm Sanctuary picks up Mindy, Mandy, and their calves, along with Marie, Maria, and Maggie, from Dan's farm in Oklahoma.

  • We bring Mindy, Mandy, and their calves to Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge.

  • We bring Marie, Maria, and Maggie to Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary.

  • Farm Sanctuary staff go back to Oklahoma to pick up the six cows returning home with us: Easton, Savic, Thomas, Max, Suzy, and Suzette.

  • We return to our Watkins Glen, New York sanctuary.

  • We bring Thomas, Max, Suzy, and Suzette to a FAAN adopter in New York.

  • Farm Sanctuary staff returns to Oklahoma to transport 10 more cows.

  • We arrive at our Acton, California sanctuary.

  • Farm Sanctuary transports two cows to the veterinary hospital and eight others to Humane Farming Association.

The power of teamwork

First, we secured the placement of six individuals through referral to Austin Farm Sanctuary. Then, our team began a series of trips to and from Dan’s Oklahoma farm — more than 12,000 miles per truck, and around 25,000 combined vehicle miles — to bring 23 cows to their new homes.

The first leg of the journey was from Farm Sanctuary’s New York shelter to an adoptive home in Kentucky, where we placed five goats and two sheep with a former Farm Sanctuary team member who is also a member of our placement network. From there, our team of six drove two trucks and trailers another 900 miles to Oklahoma. It was a sweltering day — more than 100 degrees — so we had to be especially mindful of the cows’ needs as we prepared them for travel.

Cows are prey animals who feel stressed in unfamiliar environments. Coupled with the heat, they could be quickly overwhelmed and become dangerously ill. Dan helped coax them onto our trailers — one bonded group per vehicle — to reassure his friends that they were in safe hands. After loading the first trailer, our team moved the group into the shade while loading the second group of cows into theirs. Then, we hit the road, stopping every three hours to check on the cows and ensure everyone remained calm and hydrated.

Twenty hours later, we reached our next destination: Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge in North Carolina, where four cows — two moms and their calves — would join their new herd. We unloaded the second group into a private stall where they could stretch their legs and relax overnight before the next day’s journey to their new home: Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary in Florida, another 550 miles away. Once there, the herd’s welcome crew galloped after our trailer to greet their new friends, which included a bonded trio of a grandmother, her daughter, and her granddaughter. This family will be safe — and together — for the rest of their lives.

Oklahoma cattle rescue story with Dan

Homeward bound

Before heading home to Farm Sanctuary, we made one more stop in Oklahoma — another 1,100-mile drive — to pick up Easton, Savic, and four other companions.

Twenty hours later, we arrived home at Farm Sanctuary. After the group completed their mandatory quarantine, we moved them into a private stall near one of our herds at our New York shelter. Then, we observed how they interacted to determine who shared the closest bonds and would make the best candidates for our final placement group with a new FAAN adopter: a former beef farmer who also had a change of heart and is now vegetarian!

At the end of the month, we brought four — Max, Thomas, Suzy, and Suzette — to their new home. Then, we let Easton and Savic through the gate adjoining their stall with the rest of the herd. The introduction went well, as they had already gotten to know each other over the fence. Today, they are fully integrated with the herd — joining the others to graze, roam through the woods, and relax in the barn.

The work continues

In September, our team returned to Oklahoma to transport another 10 cows to California. Following a night’s rest at our Acton sanctuary, we brought eight to their new home at Humane Farming Association (HFA) and two others — a mother and her baby — to a large veterinary hospital for the calf’s neuter. HFA’s team rejoined the pair with their family after the calf recovered.

By the end of that trip, we helped place nearly half of Dan’s original herd.

We’re still helping to search for suitable homes for the rest — and you can help. If you have the space and ability to care for cattle long-term — or know someone who can — please visit our website and apply to our Farm Animal Adoption Network or email [email protected] with any questions.

Connie sheep at Farm Sanctuary

Stay Connected

Thank You!

Join our email list to hear about emergency rescues, receive our monthly eNewsletter, learn about ways to take action, and more.

Join the millions of Farm Sanctuary followers on social media.

Sorry, something went wrong.

Captcha failed. Please try again.