June Dairy Month Cow Facts

June is Dairy Month, but somehow it’s the 27th, and I’m just now getting around to telling you about it. What can I say? June was also extremely busy. I’ll follow up with a catch-up post about things at the farm, but I wanted to make sure I got in a few words about dairy month before it was over.

At the beginning of the month I had the opportunity to work with Midwest Dairy at a local Dairy Day event. We had a tent with butter churn and milking cow displays for the kids and lots of good info and recipes for the parents, too. Myself and another farmer were there to talk to consumers, answer questions, and in general put a face, instead of a label, with our products. I compiled this list of the Top Five Cow Facts that people seemed interested in or surprised by (in no specific order).

1. Each of our cows eats over 100 lbs of feed and can drink up to 50 gallons of water each day. They have water available at all times and are fed twice a day. The ration is specially formulated for our herd by our nutritionist, but simply put, they eat a mixture of hay, silage and grains.

The milk herd’s feed is mixed twice a day. In this photo, David is adding the corn sileage.

2. Cows have four stomachs, or rather, one stomach with four compartments, each with it’s own role in digestion. This type of digestive system is what allows them to eat, and use, feed sources that humans cannot. It’s also why we have a nutritionist; cows’ digestive systems are complex, and so is their diet.

Our cows eating their dinner. They eat roughly 5000 lbs of feed twice each day.

3. Cows cannot produce milk until they have their first calf, usually when they’re about 2 years old. After that we try to have them calve about once a year with a 2 month dry period between lactations.

Heifer 1108 and her first calf. She was a little over 2 years old.

4. Cows have to milked (at least) twice a day every day, and even though machines do much of the heavy lifting (or pulling, in this case), every milking takes 2-3 hours of our time.

A milking unit hard at work.

5. Cows like being milked. They’re ready for the relief they get at milking time, and if you’re late, they’ll let you know about it. A lot of research has been put into the development of milking equipment, too, so it’s comfortable for the cows’ udders. As a result, they likely prefer the machines to hand-milking.

Midwest dairy is also promoting a video this month featuring real dairy farmers dancing – you’ll have to see it to believe it. Check it out at the link below. Besides the obvious entertainment value, each view gives a donation to Feeding America, a domestic hunger-relief charity.

Enjoy the last few days of June Dairy Month!

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