Tuesday, August 10

D is for Dairy Cow!


We learn something new every day don't we? Well yesterday I learned that the Dairy cows I pass when Freida and I go up Handale are of the breed Holstein, typical black and white colouring. They belong to our neighbours, Blue House Farm. I asked Sue what the colored tape was on the bottom of the cow's tail and she told me the various colours indicate how often the cow gives milk and of any antibiotics the animal may be taking. I found this quite interesting really and now you know too! lol!

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In this photograph in the background is the North Sea, so you can appreciate how close we are to the sea.


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In the ear of the cow is a tag so the milk produced by each cow can always be traced. Each cow has a name and it amazes me that Sue and Phil, infact all of the family can identify the various cows in the herd! I find cows such lovely animals and would make such a lovely subject for a painting...now there's an idea!

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The main function of a dairy cow is to produce milk. In the UK & Ireland and many countries across the world, the Holstein is the predominant breed because of its ability to produce high volumes of milk efficiently.

As the average cow in the UK was born before 1995, and the UK Holstein population has been improving quickly for at least the last decade, this means that the average cow in the UK will no longer have a positive PTA. In fact only around 40% of milking cows will be positive for PIN.

The calf

Calves can be born throughout the year, unlike e.g. sheep where lambs are usually born in the spring. When the calf has been born, the mother licks it to remove the birth fluids. The calf is able to stand within a few hours of birth and will drink colostrum from the cow’s udder. Colostrum is a special milk produced for the first 24 hours or so after birth and protects the new-born calf from disease.
In modern farming systems the calf is taken from its mother within a couple of days as she is needed to produce milk for sale and it is less stressfull for both the mother and calf. The farmer feeds the calf milk from a bucket for the next 6-8 weeks until it is weaned (can survive on solid food).
The calf must, by law, be identified with a tag which is inserted into its ear shortly after birth. Calves may be dehorned when they are a few weeks old. This procedure does not hurt the calf but stops the horns from developing and causing possible injury to other animals or humans.
Bull (male) calves are usually reared for beef either on the farm or at another farm which specialises in beef production. In exceptional cases where the bull is of superior genetic merit, it may be used for breeding. Heifer (female) calves usually stay on the farm and are reared for entry into the milking portion of the herd.

Milking

Before a heifer can produce milk she must have a calf. Heifers are mated at 18-24 months old. Artificial insemination is the usual method although natural service may be used. If all goes according to plan, the heifer will be pregnant for nine months before giving birth. Once the heifer has given birth she will begin to produce milk. (She will be called a heifer until she has her second calf when she will be called a cow). Milk is removed from the heifer using a electricity-powered milking machine which mimics the natural sucking action of the calf. The milking machine has a ‘cluster’ of four rubber cups which are attached to the heifer’s four teats. Gentle suction is applied to the teats and the milk is drained into a system of pipes leading to a refrigerated tank where the milk is stored until it is collected by a tanker, usually once a day. The herd is usually milked twice or occasionally three times a day.

Frequency of calving

Ideally the cow should calve once a year. Because the gestation period (pregnancy) is nine months, this means that the cow needs to be mated three months after she had her last calf. The cow continues to produce milk throughout most of her pregnancy until about three months before she is due to calve when she is ‘dried off’ i.e. the farmer stops milking her. This allows her to rest and be ready for her next lactation (milk producing period). The lactation period lasts for about 305 days. If a cow does not calve every year, the amount of milk that she produces will gradually get less.
In her lifetime, a cow will have on average, 4 calves and 4 lactations.

Feeding the cow

In order to be able to produce milk, the cow must eat large quantities of food and drink large volumes of water to obtain the nutrients that she needs. The cow is a ruminant which means that, unlike humans, she can make use of fibrous foods such as grass. In the UK & Ireland, most grass grows in the months between March and November. The herd grazes outside during this period. Surplus grass is preserved for the winter months. The most common form of preservation is in the form of silage which is fermented grass. Drying grass in the sun is another method of preservation which produces hay. Cows will eat silage or hay in the period between October and April when they are kept indoors.
Because we expect the modern dairy cow to produce large volumes of milk, her grass-based diet needs to be supplemented with extra energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. Concentrates are used for this purpose. Concentrates are mixtures of cereals, rape meal, sunflower meal, peas, soya, vitamins, minerals etc which are ground and pressed in animal feed manufacturing mills to produce small, brown pellets.

P.S. Hen update - hmmmm seem to be kicking out the eggs. Sitting on 2 eggs now - will keep you posted!

46 comments:

  1. Very interesting! I have been identifying Holsteins incorrectly as Guernseys for years :-) Cows are beautiful with their big soft eyes and wet noses - a great subject for a painting.

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  2. Oh dear, your post today brought back many a memory of cows and milking. We retired from farming 12 years ago, and believe you, me, I have not missed a minute of it. It is very hard work. Never a dull moment on a farm.

    Thanks for sharing all the fine information about the dairy cows.

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  3. Sadly Denise, there is little use for male Holstein calves - they are so lightly built and bony that they do not fatten up well and sell for little or nothing at the Mart.

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  4. I totally agree that second photo would make an excellent painting. Our art challenge last week was a couple of cows and I enjoyed it enormously.

    I always assumed that black and white cows were Friesians because that was what we had near us when I was growing up. I used to love watching them in the field. Their eyes seem very "knowing".

    Good info here!

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  5. Thank you for the information about cows and milk production. It is quite fascinating.

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  6. This was a fascinating posts and I learned a number of things I didn't know. I love the photographs of the cows.

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  7. fascinating posts and photos of the cows.. North Sea u say? wow.. interesting..! i've never seen a taped tail cow b4 either!

    thanks for sharing this with ABC W Denise! :)

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  8. Beautiful shots of these Holsteins. I never thought of dairy cows and they are everywhere in Ohio. I would love to live that close to the sea....

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  9. The ABC Wednesday posts always are a treasure chest of knowledge. I know nothing about cows or milking and this was fascinating.
    Love the cow eyes. they have such a gentle look to them.

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  10. Gosh I didn't realise there was so much to it! Thanks for sharing all that info.

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  11. Really interesting post for the day, Denise, and I love cows! My uncle had a dairy farm for many years where I spent every summer as a child. So this brought back lots of memories. Love your photos as always! Hope your week is going well!
    Thanks as always for the fun!

    Sylvia

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  12. I enjoyed your post so much. I'm a huge cow fan and you don't see many posts dedicated to these wonderful animals. Love it!

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  13. Seems like I'm seeing a lot of cows lately. We painted cows in our Art Challenge last week.

    These are beautiful photo, and I'm sure in the mood for milk and cookies.

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  14. We have cow cousins (they're called Moo and Morris and Bill)
    I like pictures of cows.

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  15. Thanks for all the interesting information about cows, I see them in the fields every day, I think they are lovely animals, this has been fascinating.

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  16. I'd dtill like to believe that the brown ones give strawberry milk and the black ones give chocolate :)

    I do think they are cute- smelly but cute.

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  17. Fascinating information, Denise! I have a friend who always wanted to marry a dairy farmer...she did and now lives in Ontario, helping her husband on the farm. A couple of times, she's asked friends to suggest names for the newborn calves and I love thinking up original ones.

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  18. What fascinating information and lovely pictures.

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  19. I like taking pictures of cows too, they always give you a stare:-). You seem to have covered every aspect of dairy farming, I will have to look out for the blue tape, never seen that.
    My mother spent her childhood on a farm but the only bit of trivia I picked up from her was that an all black colouring is always called blue.

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  20. Very interesting post for the D day, it's more informative and knowledgeable of how cow distribute milk. Have a lovely day.

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  21. Great post and brought back lots of memories. I, a city girl, took our cow for a walk on the first spring day, and she stepped on my foot, - later my adventures with her included a panic attack when she was about to birth and I was alone on the farm. I phoned the neighbour in great excitement but when I returned to the meadow she had a lovely new calf at her feet. Such lovely placid creatures.

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  22. If you had baptized your bovines, I'd saw, "Holy cow!" Lots of info there, chief. But artificial insemination? What's the fun in THAT?!

    ROG, your ABC Wednesday team

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  23. Interesting, and lovely photos of the cows in the field ;)

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  24. My husband was raised on a dairy; they had Jerseys and sold the cream. He was the youngest child in the family, and had to help with the milking. When he left home, his father sold all the dairy cows and bought beef!

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  25. So true that a painting would be a desirable task! I had no idea that so much ID'ing of dairy cattle takes place - quite a process, for sure.

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  26. Hmm...a painting of a cow. I've done sheep and some tiny cows and heads of cows, but maybe it's time to do a full length (or width ) of one. And there's the dear old North Sea!. Really an interesting post, Denise. Thanks for your creative mind and excessive energy!

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  27. I think this is the best cow because they are close to the sea and the breeze from that part is fresh and clean. Nice shot! Happy WeABC Wednesday~D
    dnesday!

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  28. I think this is the best cow because they are close to the sea and the breeze from that part is fresh and clean. Nice shot! Happy WeABC Wednesday~D
    dnesday!

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  29. I pass a local dairy farm a couple times each week and chanced to see a cow giving birth while her "friends" stood around to observe and hopefully encourage her through the process. As a child I loved visits to my father's uncle who owned a dairy farm in southern New York state. There is something about the smell of cows that brings back sweet memories.

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  30. Thank you Denise for enlightening me on the various aspects of Dairy Farming!!

    Just like the family recognizes every cow on the farm by it's name...I'm sure the cows too recognize them individually.

    Nice pictures to go along with the post. Very Interesting...

    Have a great week ahead!! :)

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  31. Well that is a very informative post, thank you Denise! I live in cowland so to speak, but I didn't know all those facts.

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  32. oh thanks for this educational info...i thought cows will only have few months pregnancy ha ha..but they are the same with human lol.

    Happy ABC Wed.

    mine is @ iTravel

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  33. that is beautiful take,
    love the cow images...

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  34. I thought Holstein was lager?

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  35. I remember going to a dairy farm on a class field trip years ago so of course I had forgotten most of what you wrote. Nice to re-learn it again. (those cows have million dollar views of the sea!)

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  36. I can't see your photos without thinking of various tv ads! They are very beautiful creatures, graphic too and lovely to paint. Thanks for commenting on my veg patch blog, I'm very happy to hear from my readers and will base my next post on what to plant now, inspired by your comment!

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  37. What a job you have done Denise! I learned so much about cows, useful and very interesting!

    Annelie E

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  38. Loving this post because I'm so fond of cows--Jersey's especially. Thanks for all the info; fun, as always.
    p.s. I meant to tell you we ride a black Yamaha Royal Star Venture [we're old :O) and beyond the age of having fun on a sport bike]
    You're my hero!

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  39. This was better than the Nature Channel!

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  40. Very informative post.
    Great shots.

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  41. My freind Linda's husband farms a huge dairy herd of Holsteins, who wear collars. I asked him why and he showed me, that a sensor in the parlour reads the collar information and automatically dispenses the correct amount of feed to that cow- clever huh?

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  42. "As the average cow in the UK was born before 1995, and the UK Holstein population has been improving quickly for at least the last decade, this means that the average cow in the UK will no longer have a positive PTA. In fact only around 40% of milking cows will be positive for PIN."

    Sorry, but this part is incomprehensible to me! What are positive PTA, and PIN? And if the average cow in the UK was born before 1995, how come they only have four calves??

    I know, picky picky. LOL! And really, it's a great post!

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  43. wow! thanks for sharing the info...glad to know....:)

    thanks for dropping by...great to be here!

    Dias Spot
    www.gregdemcydias.com

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  44. Beautiful photographs - I think holsteins are so photogenic against a backdrop of lush green grass. cant wait to hearmore about the eggs!

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  45. What a fount of information! I just realized how much I DIDN'T know about cows!

    I'd always wondered about the tags in their ears, but I've never even noticed the taped tails. And I had no idea there was a difference between a cow and a heifer.

    Okay, I think I know the answer to this one, but...what factors decide how many calves and lactations a cow will have? And...oh dear...what happens to the cow after she's stopped calving?

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  46. http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/poetry-awards-4thursday-poets-rally-week-26-plus-more/

    two awards on the bottom for you,
    the most creative blogger award,
    u r a rare friend award....
    cheers!

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Thank you for your comments, always nice to know somebody has taken the time to let me know what they think.

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