Oatmeal the blind steer is no longer an Aggie.
And his eyesight may be a little better than first thought.
After spending a month at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in College Station, the steer was recently moved to an undisclosed ranch.
Oatmeal has a pasture he can call home and a family “with the resources, facilities and expertise” to provide care for him, A&M officials said.
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Last month, the Star-Telegram published a story on Oatmeal and Kendyll Williams, the teen who had taken a chance on the blind steer and raised him from when he was 5 months old. Born with cataracts, Oatmeal could only detect light and dark shapes, family members said.
After being examined at A&M, officials said that Oatmeal also has congenital defects in both eyes.
It was established by our board certified ophthalmologist that the steer is not completely blind and does have partial vision, although cataracts are present in both eyes.
Eleanor Green, dean of the A&M veterinary college
“It was established by our board certified ophthalmologist that the steer is not completely blind and does have partial vision, although cataracts are present in both eyes,” Elanor Green, dean of the veterinary college, said in an email to the Star-Telegram on Friday.
Oatmeal still required special training at the hands of Kendyll, who became especially close to the steer at their farm in Huntsville.
“I’d go to his stall every day and talk to him,” Kendyll told the Star-Telegram in February. “You can’t be rough with him. He doesn’t respond well to roughness. One day, it just clicked. I started gaining his trust.”
After he was shown at the Fort Worth Stock Show and sold for slaughter, a teary-eyed Kendyll hugged Oatmeal, kissed the top of his head and said goodbye.
Food chain vs. sanctuary
As he and other steers settled in at a South Texas feed lot, animal rights activists latched onto Oatmeal’s story, which became a topic of sometimes nasty discussion on Facebook.
$8,000 price paid for Oatmeal at the Fort Worth Stock Show Sale of Champions.
Ranchers and others in the food industry contended that Oatmeal was rightly taking his place in the food chain. That’s what happens to steers, they said.
Oatmeal’s advocates, who included vegans, mounted a Facebook campaign to save the steer, saying he should be spared. Petitions were signed and money was raised with the hopes of rescuing Oatmeal so he could spend the rest of his life at a farm animal sanctuary in Angleton.
Some of the comments were hateful toward the 13-year-old Kendyll, which upset her father, Lyle Williams.
“We decided not to respond because nothing good would come from it. I’m just dumbfounded by it all,” Lyle Williams said.
Stock Show officials decided to step in and end the debate.
State Rep. Charlie Geren, vice president of the Stock Show, brokered a deal with A&M to take Oatmeal.
‘Helping feed the world’
On Feb. 11, Matt Brockman, the Stock Show’s publicity manager, drove from Fort Worth to South Texas, loaded up Oatmeal and took him to College Station.
It was clear that he had functional eyesight and in my opinion this steer could have entered the food system.
Matt Brockman, Stock Show publicity manager
“He loaded like a champ and hauled like a champ,” Brockman said Friday. “It was clear that he had functional eyesight and in my opinion this steer could have entered the food system. ... I’ve worked with totally blind steers, and this steer wasn’t that.”
Oatmeal was examined thoroughly at A&M before being moved to his new home.
Renee King-Sonnen, founder of the Rowdy Girl Sancutary in Angleton that actively sought to rescue Oatmeal, said she’s fine with the move if Oatmeal is truly in good hands.
“I’m happy if he’s really safe, I just don’t understand all the secrecy,” King-Sonnen said. “I just hope he never, ever, ever sees a slaughterhouse.”
King-Sonnen said volunteers in the rescue effort collected about $12,000 that was going to be used for Oatmeal’s care. She said that money will be used to provide scholarships to youth who show they have a change of heart about showing and selling livestock for slaughter.
Brockman reiterated his point that young exhibitors at the Stock Show are learning about the livestock industry and the role it plays in providing a safe food supply.
“A young livestock show exhibitor knows the animal they raise to show will someday enter the food system. ... The youth participants are fully aware that at some point their ‘project’ will be processed and enter the food system,” Brockman said in a previous email. “They’re helping feed the world.”
This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.