It may be atypical, but this Valentine's Day one family in Romania is recognizing a cow as their "special someone."
This winter, in the Transylvanian commune of Dumitrita, Heifer Romania partnered with Bóthar Ireland and the Resource Center for Roma Communities to launch the Empowering Roma Women in Bistrita County project. One of the largest minorities in Romania, the Roma people are challenged by both social and economic disadvantages.
Twenty-five families each received a pregnant heifer during the original placement ceremony. Before welcoming their gifts of livestock, however, the families had to prepare for the animals. To lay a solid foundation for these family farmers, Heifer Romania and its partners conducted extensive trainings on topics like animal management and gender equity.
Within this project, each community group has a leader. The Dumitrita community group leader is Florin Lacatusu. A lifelong resident of Budacu Village, Lacatusu met his wife Ioana while studying at Industrial School. Two decades have passed, and the couple now has five children: Iulia, 20; Florin, 19; Paula, 17; Gavril, 13; and Ioana, 9. Following in his father’s footsteps, Florin is currently the best automotive apprentice at Industrial School.
Nicoleta, the Lacatusus’ cow, was the first heifer to give birth in Budacu. She delivered a male calf, which the family named Bodo. Their menagerie of beloved animals also includes a cat called Pluto and a horse known as Victor.
Nicoleta is pregnant again, and the entire family is very attentive to her needs. The elder Florin recognizes that animals need both physical care and kindness. “Our Nicoleta feels our warm attitude toward her and therefore returns her love to us,” he says. “She gives 12-15 liters of milk a day. Bodo will definitely grow healthy and happy.” When Nicoleta has a female calf, the family looks forward to Passing on the Gift® to another family.
The families participating in this project have basic cattle-rearing knowledge. Most have owned cows before or currently have local mixed breeds. The project helps them to improve the genetics of their stock so that the quality and quantity of their cows’ milk improves. These families know firsthand how milk is essential for feeding their large families. Now that the project is connecting them to a local collection point where they can sell their surplus milk, they can earn a profit, too.
“We will sell the surplus to the milk collection point, and I’m planning to buy another cow and some goats,” Florin says. “From the Heifer staff I understood that they will teach us and our wives some classes in order to adopt a different angle on animal breeding.”
Share the love of a heifer this Valentine’s Day.
Story and Photos by Laura Manciu, Communication and PR Coordinator, Heifer Romania