A Year In The Life Of An Organic Dairy Cow
Before a cow can produce milk she has to have a calf and on most farms these will be born in the spring. The calves will stay with their mother or a nurse cow for a few weeks.
The calves will then be put in together so they can play and groom each other. The female calves are called heifers and they will usually be added to the dairy herd. Male calves are called bull calves and they will usually be raised for beef.
The dairy cows are brought into the milking parlour twice a day to be milked, usually very early in the morning and again in the afternoon. Milking used to be done by hand but now most farms use milking machines so a lot of cows can be milked at once.
The milk is put in a tank where it is kept chilled until it is picked up by the milk tanker, which comes every two days. It is then taken to a processor where it is pasteurised. This involves heating the milk to kill any bacteria. It is then packaged and sent to the shop or supermarket. Some milk will be used to make other dairy products such as yogurt, butter, cream, ice cream and cheese.
The cows and calves will be out grazing in the meadows all summer and during that time they will have a bull in with them and will therefore be mated so they become pregnant – it is referred to as being ‘in-calf’. Some farmers use ‘artificial insemination’ instead of a bull to get the cows in calf. The gestation period (the time that they are pregnant) is the same for cows as for humans at nine months and the cows will continue to be milked during the first six months.
When the weather gets cold and wet in late autumn most farmers bring their cows into barns. This is because the grass in winter is not very nourishing and also cows don’t like very wet muddy conditions.
While they are inside they will have plenty of food, bedding and space to move around. They will stay here until the weather gets warmer and drier in the spring when they go outside again and it all starts again.