What you DON’T know about the dairy cow

Everyone knows that cows make milk (at least I hope you do!), but there is more to this animal than meets the eye. Here are a few fun facts you might not know about the dairy cow!

1. There are SIX main breeds of dairy cattle. I have listed them from my favorite to least favorite, just so you know what I’m about.  The Holstein, Brown Swiss, Jersey, Ayrshire, Guernsey and Milking Shorthorn. There is a seventh breed, the Red & White Holstein, which is a variation of the Holstein.

 2. A female is called a cow and a male is called a bull. Females are the “milk-makers” and just like humans, a cow cannot produce milk until she has given birth. A baby is called a calf and babies are referred to as calves. When talking about males and females together we say cattle.

3. A newborn calf can walk on its own within one hour after it is born!

A calf trying to stand up minutes after birth!

4. Most dairy cows are milked two to three times a day and will produce seven to eight gallons of milk each day! The cow that produces the most milk is called the Dairy Queen. I’m just kidding, that’s a joke, folks.

5. Dairy cattle have a ruminant digestive tract. This type of digestive system includes four stomach compartments that allow cattle to digest forages. It is a complex system and I don’t want to get into the boring details, but here is the cool part….ruminants regurgitate their food, chew and digest it again! This regurgitated food is called “cud”. On average, a cow will spend 8 hours a day chewing cud. Cud chewing is a good indicator of a happy cow. Check  out a happy cow here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HQxEP0hwI4

6. The average weight of a dairy cow is 1,500 lbs. The average weight of a newborn calf is 90 lbs. Ouch.

7. Cows only have teeth on the bottom of their jaw!

8. The dairy cow has the highest daily drinking requirement of all land-based mammals. The modern dairy cow drinks 30-50 gallons of water each day.

9. A milking cow eats approximately 100 lbs of feed a day. Ufda.

10. Cows are social animals, and they naturally form large herds. Like people, they will make friends and bond with some herd members, while avoiding others.  Dairy Carrie, a fellow blogger, recently posted this picture of her Red & White Holsteins.  They like to stick together!

Cows at Dairy Carrie's farm

Cows at Dairy Carrie’s farm

Wow, who knew the cow was such a complex creature?!  Now that you know all these fun facts you can go and impress your friends!

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8 thoughts on “What you DON’T know about the dairy cow

  1. You’d be surprised how many people don’t realize that all cows are capable of producing milk. People just assume because our cows aren’t the traditional black-and-white Holstein that they don’t produce milk. It’s crazy!

  2. HA! Loved the Dairy Queen joke! I love inside facts and random facts about things, so naturally I love this post. My family, until this past year, were dairy farmers ;-( I’m a big supporter of the dairy industry (also because I drink about 2-3 gallons of milk a week)

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