See Our Farms

animalcaremain

Animal Care

The No. 1 priority of dairy farmers is to treat their cows with respect and excellent care. Cows that are well-cared for simply are more productive. Dairy farmers work hard to provide cows with clean, comfortable living conditions. Dairy cows receive regular visits from veterinarians and even get “cow pedicures” from a hoof trimmer. Cows have all-day access to fresh water, and an animal dietitian creates diets to ensure a cow gets exactly what it needs to function at its best and produce wholesome milk. 

Many dairy farms feature bedding made of sand that makes for a clean and cool area where the cows can rest. Large barns provide shade from the sun and are often equipped with sprinkler systems and fans that produce a cool mist.

Housing
Cows need to lay down or rest 12 to 14 hours a day. Dairy cows have clean, comfortable bedding made of sand, shavings, recycled shredded rubber or even water mattresses. Barns come in all shapes and sizes and can include fans and misters for hot weather and have shade cloths and sides to protect from the wind during cold weather. They have plenty of room to exercise to maintain good health and they can rest comfortably with the benefit of having shade and protection from the elements. Many dairy farmers also have installed rubber or other non-slip flooring in their barns to make it easier for the cows to move around.

Feeding and Grazing
Dairy farmers feed their cows specially formulated diets with the help of a nutritionist. These diets are well balanced combinations of grains like corn, silage, and barley, hay or alfalfa, vitamins and minerals. A cow has one stomach with 4 compartments. The first three compartments process feed in a way that people cannot. Because of this unique digestive system, cows have the ability to convert plants that humans cannot eat into nutritious food like milk. They also have constant access to plenty of clean, fresh water because cows get thirsty and can drink anywhere from 25 to 50 gallons of water a day.

Medical Care
Dairy cows interact every day with farm employees during their regularly scheduled milking. Cows receive regular care, such as periodic check-ups, preventative vaccinations and prompt treatment of illness when the veterinarians make their routine visits to dairy farms. Just like people, cows sometimes get sick. When a cow is treated with medication, she is removed from the healthy herd and does not return until she is well and her milk tests free of antibiotics. When milk does test positive for antibiotics it is immediately discarded so it does not reach the food supply.

Calf Care
Cows produce milk once they deliver a calf. About 10-12 months after calving, the amount of milk the cow gives naturally decreases substantially. Cows will undergo a dry or non-lactating period for 45-60 days prior to calving. During this time, milking is ceased and cows receive special diets and housing to properly prepare for calving. About 12 to 14 months after the birth of her previous calf, a cow will calve again, thus providing the next cycle of milk production. Dairy farmers provide a clean, dry, well-lit and well-ventilated separate calving area to ensure comfortable, safe and clean conditions for both mother and calf. Separate living quarters are provided immediately after the birth of a calf to protect its health and ensure the best individual care. 

Because newborn calves need time to build up their immune systems, it is better that they are not exposed to germs in the environment or germs that can be passed on from older animals. Another way farmers ensure the health of their calves is by feeding newborns two to four quarts of colostrum — the first milk the mother produces after giving birth. This special milk is usually delivered by bottle. Colostrum is high in fat and protein and contains antibodies that help build the calf’s immune system.

Record Keeping
Dairy farmers keep very detailed records of their cattle. One way they do this is with proper identification of each cow. Ear tags and other identification methods allow the farmer to keep records for each cow, including her birthdate, weights, medical records and milk production levels.

Dairy MAX Blog

Oct
22
“Choc” Full of Protein Posted by Caroline Sullivan @ Wed, 22 Oct 2014

Protein is essential for any athlete’s nutrition. Building muscles; repairing them after exercise;...

read more

Dairy MAX on Twitter