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Divine sign: Calf with cross on head a symbol of hope for farmer

By Deborah Straszheim, GateHouse News Service| Norwich Bulletin

Aaron Flaum/

Moses, a Jersey-Holstein calf mix, at Brad Davis and Megan Johnson's farm in Sterling.

Sterling dairy farmer Brad Davis woke Dec. 1 to find his cow licking the head of her newborn calf. There was a white furry splotch on his head, and Davis took the calf to a heated room in the barn to dry.

A few hours later, he returned and found the animal sitting up in the sawdust, the white mark dry and in the shape of a cross.

“I almost fell over,” said Davis, 45. “I felt like I should be on my knees.”

His father, Andrew Gallup Davis, 70, said he’s seen thousands of calves born, but none with a marking like this.

“It’s not one you look at and you try to make something out of it. It’s pronounced,” he said.

Neighborhood children visited and named the calf Moses.

His mother, Fuzzy, is a 2 1⁄2-year-old Holstein cow; his father, Ferdinand, is a 4-year-old Jersey. 

Ric Grummer, chairman of the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said white markings on the head of Holstein animals are common.

“I think what this is really ending up being is a coincidence,” he said. “Sometimes that marking is in the shape of a triangle. Sometimes that marking may be very irregularly shaped.”  

Holsteins are the most common breed of dairy cow in the United States; typically they’re half black and half white, or half “red” and half white. Jersey cows, the second most common breed, tend to be a solid color, with darker coloring around the hooves, end of the tail, face and ears.

“Clearly, if you get a nice unique cross, it’s unique, but it’s not totally surprising that something like this would happen,” Grummer said.

The Davis family has been farming in Connecticut since 1632. Fuzzy, like Davis, has family that goes back generations on the farm.

Moses was her first calf.

“(He) really has got a cross, God bless his soul,” said Arthur Martin, a neighbor who stopped in to look.

Brad Davis said he considers himself to have a strong faith; he’s not tied to any particular
Christian religion.

“Right here at the farm, I talk to God,” he said.

Good sign?

He’s hoping the marking on Moses means there’s hope for the dairy industry, or that milk prices will rise and things will get better.

“The last couple of years have been the toughest probably ever,” he said.

Moses weighed about 50 pounds at birth but could grow to as much as 1,400 pounds. He drinks three gallons of milk a day and eats some hay. He’s affectionate, and would be in the house if Davis allowed it.

“He’s got a different disposition from other calves. You can see it in his eyes,” Davis said. “He has a very kind look in his eyes. Like he has something he wants to say to you.”

Moses was born at the Davis Family Farm, and is living at Buttercup Farm, a smaller dairy operation Davis co-owns with Megan Johnson.

Johnson rescues cows that aren’t moneymakers and sells them on the Internet. She and Davis haven’t decided what to do with Moses yet; they may advertise him on Craigslist or keep him.

“We’re going to make sure he gets a good life and doesn’t get eaten,” she said.

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