PROGRESS, Miss. (AP) — Nancy Hall says it took a while but she and her husband John have found what has been attacking the calves at their dairy farm — vultures.
Nancy Hall tells the Enterprise-Journal (http://bit.ly/133iNKC ) that the attacks had been going for several days at her farm in the Progress community.
She said some of her calves' eyes, tongue and other parts of their bodies were pecked out.
The couple called Lee Barkdull with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture. Barkdull said a predator — a coyote or other animal — had done the damage, but he wasn't sure.
The couple thought someone was playing cruel games.
"We really thought it was somebody," Nancy said.
One day, Nancy said they saw the culprit: an American black vulture.
The bird is known to attack vulnerable, small animals including newborn calves. The birds pick at the eyes, tongue and other parts of the animal to send it into shock and eventually kill it. The vultures are the size of the turkey vulture. The black vulture has a black head and black feathers with white accents under the wings. The birds are protected under state and federal laws.
"It is in the early morning when we have seen them out here," John said. "But you can expect them any time. They don't circle above like the old buzzards do; they sit out there in the trees and sweep in like a predator," he said.
Nancy said the birds have killed three female calves, which can fetch up to $300, and a male calf. She also said they have three more calves missing but aren't sure what happened to them.
The Halls found a way to keep the birds from attacking the small calves. They keep the animals in a smaller pen so the birds can't get to them.
"If they get down in there they can't get their wings out to fly out," John said.
Nancy said the birds won't mess attack the bigger cows ranging in age from 4 months to adult. Once the calves get old enough, they release them into a bigger enclosure, she said.
Information from: Enterprise-Journal, http://www.enterprise-journal.com