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Fast Facts

1. A cow produces nearly  9500 litres of milk per year in BC
2. A cow weighs between 600 – 750 kg (1400-1600 lbs) which is the size of approximately 8 grown men
3. All dairy cows are female! Males are called bulls.
4. Cows spend about 10 hours a day eating, 8 hours a day lying down and 6 hours a day on their feet, being milked, walking around their stalls and socializing with their herd mates.
5. All mammals such as water buffalo, goats, sheep, horses, reindeer and camels can also produce milk.

Have you ever wondered where milk from the grocery store comes from or how it’s made? 

The dairy cow is the primary milk producing animal in the world. 

Cows Need Food for Energy!    

Dairy cows are at work all day to make the milk that we drink, which is why we provide them with a balanced diet of various feeds. Proper nutrition keeps cows healthy and allows them to produce high quality milk. There are many different kinds of feed that dairy farmers feed their cows. 

  • Grass on Pastures
  • Hay (dried grass or alfalfa)
  • Feed grains (corn, barley, wheat and oats)
  • Protein supplements 
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Silage (fermented crops such as grass, corn, and/or barley)

Cows have water and feed available to them at all times

Cows make use of fibrous feeds called forages like grass and hay and convert them into nutritious milk.

- They drink about a bathtub full of water and eat about 50 kilograms of food (or 1675 servings of cereal) a day.

The All Natural Milk Machine! 

Cows are known as ruminant animals because they have a unique stomach system, made up of 4 stomach compartments. This allows them to digest foods such as corn and hay more efficiently than animals with one stomach compartment, such as humans. Each stomach compartment has unique features, which helps to breakdown and absorb the digested food. 

1. Food first goes into the rumen and reticulum.
- COOL FACT -The rumen takes up to one third of the weight of an adult milking cow and may contain 150 to 200 kg of plant material and water.

2. Then the cow regurgitates a small amount of the food (called cud) so that she can chew it again into smaller, more digestible pieces.
- COOL FACT - Cows spend several hours regurgitating their food or chewing their cud to reduce particle size for further digestion.

3. The cud is then swallowed again and it goes into the third chamber – the omasum – where water and some nutrients are absorbed.
- COOL FACT - the inside of the omasum looks like pages of a book to increase absorption.

4. Then it moves into the fourth chamber – the abomasum (similar to our stomach) – where digestion actually occurs.
- COOL FACT - It takes a cow about 2 days to process the food into milk.

5. Udder and Teats
- Milk production occurs in the udder in four separate compartments.
- COOL FACT - The average cow produces 30 Lliters of milk a day.

The Milking Process

- The milking process begins by collecting the animals. The cows are then routed into the milking parlour where they undergo an inspection and cleaning of their teats.

- The milking equipment is then attached to their udders and the milk is transferred through tubes via vacuum into a stainless steel bulk tank. It usually takes 5-8 minutes for each cow to be milked. Once the cows have released all of their milk from their udders, the milk machines are automatically removed from their teats.

- The cows leave the parlour and return to the barn where they can relax and socialize with their fellow cows until it is time for their next milking. 

- Dairy Cows are the happiest when they are on a predictable schedule for feeding, milking and cleaning. 

- Cows are usually milked twice a day, twelve hours apart. Although, it is not uncommon for there to be three milkings a day.

- COOL FACT – Some cows enjoy music in the milking parlour while they are getting milked.
- COOL FACT – A cow milks for about 305 days out of the 365 days in the year. The remaining 60 days are a rest period for the cows to take a break.

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