Andover community action spares ‘The Jersey 5’

By Cynthia Prairie and Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Andover neighbors and town officials came together this past week to get help for a single ailing Jersey cow then ended up with a small herd.

Five Jersey cows no longer living at Lovejoy Brook Farm. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The “Jersey 5” are now lounging and dining in a green field of high grass on an undisclosed farm near Chester.

Andover town officials are well acquainted with the farm that was originally home to the cows. Since the death of long-time owner Lydia Radcliff Ratcliff in early 2018, Lovejoy Brook Farm has become a fairly regular “old business” topic on the Andover Select Board’s agenda with discussions of a number of complaints including a “violation letter/fine” and a dog incident plus multiple “updates.” The Vermont State Police are also familiar with the property, listing 46 calls for service between May 2019 and April 2020. Andover Town Clerk Jeanette Haight said most of the complaints were between tenants and those problems seemed to be resolved.

Hope, standing, and Faith in a field at their temporary home. The photo was taken after the operation on Hope’s eye.

Carol Scafuro,  an animal activist and Andover’s 2nd constable in charge of animal complaints, said that for years she has been trying to shine a light on what she called the inconsistency of care that animals at the East Hill Road farm have had. Farm owner Dwayne Nichols confirmed this to The Telegraph saying that Scafuro had “been bugging me for two years and then they put her on the town.” Nichols had no further comment.

But while police and a veterinarian have said the animals appeared to be healthy, it was the injured and increasingly infected left eye of one cow, now named Hope, that spurred these people to come together to take action.

Scafuro said that because she is a neighbor of the farm, “I get called first” when there are complaints.  On Monday, Sept. 20, she received a photo of the cow with the “weepy and bloody” eye. Scafuro said she called the farm owner, who lives in Chester but has a caretaker at the farm. According to her, the owner said the eye was a long-time and ongoing problem that would heal up again.

That same day Haight had sent photos of the injury to all of the town’s Select Board members and several of those contacted Vermont State Police. All agreed that they needed to take action, and arranged for a veterinarian to meet them at the farm that night.

The problem was that the cows were going to be shipped to auction at 7:30 last Tuesday morning. When Scott Kendall arrived with fellow board member Jed LaPrise, they found the cows had no food or water, he told The Telegraph. According to Kendall, the cows had broken a portion of a fence to reach over and get to grass there.

Faith apparently falling asleep in comfortable new digs

Enter Lauren Krieger, an Andover resident who is a creative director for a research firm and  also runs AirBnBs. She had only learned about the situation that Monday evening. But with hopes of one day owning an animal sanctuary, she felt she could not let these cows down. Around 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 21, Krieger headed over to Nichols’ Chester home and asked for all the cows. Nichols, she said, would only let her have two, the mother with the injured eye now called Hope, and her year-old daughter, now called Faith. But only if she got to the truck before it left for the auction.

She arrived to see the three cows being loaded on the truck, but a third cow, now called Liberty, refused to board despite the efforts of those trying to push her into the truck. Krieger secured that one too, admitting that her offer was likely “the path of least resistance.”

Still, that meant that the other two  — Liberty’s mother and Hope’s older daughter — were headed to an auction house in New York State.  And Krieger and other concerned neighbors still had to line up transportation and accommodations — including pastureland and a barn for the the Hope, Faith and Liberty, which took most of the day.

Veterinarian finds serious infection, possible cancer

Once accommodations were set up,  Dr. Dianne Johnson, the large animal veterinarian from Mt. Holly who had met Kendall and LaPrise at the farm on Monday night, returned to treat Hope’s infection, which she suspected was serious. It took much longer to numb the eye area than to perform the operation, Johnson said on Friday, estimating that the operation took 30 minutes to an hour.

Carol Scafuro with Hope

What she found was a large mass in the lower eyelid and the serious infection in the eye socket. “We don’t know when or how the eye got destroyed,” she said. And there was “no way to tell how long it was infected.”

The area was cleaned and sewn up and Hope is being treated with antibiotics.

Andover Select Board member Scott Kendall, who has been involved in the situation and was helping Johnson manage the large animal, called the odor emanating from the infected eye “the most disgusting thing” he’s ever experienced.

Johnson is awaiting the results of a biopsy, which should come back this week. “I suspect cancer in the eyelid. I think it invaded further.”

An auction barn ear tag on one of the cow’s who were sent to New York

In the meantime, Scafuro heard about the two cows heading to a New York auction barn and began searching for the one that was receiving two cows from Vermont.

At 5:30 p.m. last Tuesday, Sept. 21, she found the right auctioneer. But the auction would proceed, she was told, in 30 minutes. Scafuro then worked out an agreement with the auction house and late that night, she was told the cows were hers, but she would have to pay for the veterinarian and transportation back to Vermont. On Wednesday morning, the truck arrived carrying the two cows who, upon being put out to pasture, were greeted by the other three members of their herd.

Jersey 5 now seeking permanent room and board

Before a new home can be found for them, the small herd has to be quarantined to determine if they might be carrying other illnesses. And Hope, whose eye infection may have been caused by a cancer, will need continuing care and recovery.

Right now, the group — more than a dozen people were involved in the rescue of these cows — will be looking for a permanent home for the herd. Krieger, Scafuro and Sophia Nicolella have established a Go-Fund-Me page, which had nearly reached its $7,000 goal for the cow’s feed and medical care by early this week.

“It’s been a whirlwind of a week,” said Krieger.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Wow!! Pretty darn spectacular all around. So great to have a good story with a happy ending for once!!

  2. Mary McCallum says:

    I applaud the efforts of the team that rescued these cows that needed more care than they were getting at the farm. When community members band together and are backed by their town, state police and medical providers they can move mountains. This is one of those instances when the phrase “when you see something, say something” really worked. A good reminder for us all.

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