Dairy Fun Fact: Why Do Dairy Cows Produce Milk?

A dairy cow is pregnant for around 9 months and 2-3 weeks.  As she gets closer to giving birth, her udder (where the milk comes from) begins to get bigger with more mammary tissue. Around one month before she gives birth (an event known as calving), she begins to start putting nurients together in her mammary gland to make her first bit of milk.  When she finally calves, the milk starts coming out.  For the first 3-6 milkings, the milk is known as colostrum.  Colostrum is thicker than regular milk and usually has a creamy light yellow color.  This is because it is very rich in immunoglobulins, proteins and other nutrients. The colostrum is fed directly to the baby (referred to as her calf) as it helps give the calf a good nutritious first meal.  After she stops producing colostrum, around 2-3 days after calving, the cow produces regular milk.  Some of this milk goes to feed her calf, but a calf cannot drink all the milk that a cow can produce, so the rest of the milk goes to us because it is a nutritious and delicious drink!  The cow's ability to make milk is highly dependent on her health, diet, breed and age, so farmers work very hard to ensure that cows are healthy and eating a balanced diet that meets their needs.

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