Want to know more about dairy in BC? Check out more of our answers to your most frequently asked questions.
Dairy farmers work with veterinarians and cattle nutritionists to formulate feeding programs based on their farm’s individual conditions – their soil, climate, the types of cows they have. While most cattle feed is grass and corn from their own land or other local farms, farmers supplement that with mixtures of grain, vitamins, and additives such as high-energy fats to help animals stay in top condition.
Continuously improving the health of their animals is important to BC dairy farmers. Farmers work with experts, including veterinarians to determine the best genetic traits for their herd. Most farms use artificial insemination (AI) to breed their cows. Cows are bred at 12 to 14 months of age and about three months after the birth of their calves. AI allows the farmer to select the individual genetic characteristics that they want for their herd. Some farms keep breeding bulls; however, dairy bulls often weigh over 2,000lbs and can be aggressive and unpredictable. Farmers choose the best breeding program for their individual farms.
The time a cow spends on a dairy farm can vary from 5-12 years. Retired dairy cows are typically sold into the food system for beef.
Male calves are typically sold to be raised in ranch-style facilities to enter the beef market once they are adult steers, or kept as a breeding animal. You can learn more about mandatory animal care requirements for all Canadian dairy farms in the Dairy Code of Practice. (currently under revision).
Where cows spend their time can vary from farm to farm, and by season. Some farmers pasture their cows in the summer months; however, most farmers choose to house their herd primarily within a barn. Modern barns are spacious, offer fresh feed and clean water at all times, provide plenty of room to roam, natural lighting, fresh bedding, ample ventilation and controlled temperatures that maintain animals’ comfort and optimal health.
Certified organic dairy farms follow specific requirements for pasturing cows at certain times of the year.
Canadian dairy farmers follow world-leading standards for food production and quality and have a deep commitment to the animals in their care. BC dairy farmers’ livelihood depends on the health of their herd. Accordingly, dairy farmers typically go to great lengths to ensure the well-being of their animals.Keep Reading