Dairy Cows are Solely for Milk

Dairy farming has been part of agriculture for thousands of years. Dairy cows are bred specifically to produce large quantities of milk. In Namibia, villages in the remotest areas know the importance of a reliable dairy cow to supply in the daily milk needs of the villagers.

The importance of looking after these valuable animals was stressed at last week’s Management and Leadership Expert cc training workshop in Windhoek that will be taken to various parts of the country until the end of October. Dairy cows are required to give birth to one calf per year to continue producing milk. They are usually artificially inseminated within three months of giving birth. These high milk producing cows are only productive for an average of three years, after which they are culled and the meat is normally used for beef.

Commercial dairy cows are kept in herds that can vary in size from fewer than five cows to several thousand in large commercial farming systems. There are around 250 million cows producing milk across the world. The European Union is the largest milk producer and has about 23 million dairy cows. This compares with ten million in North America and over six million in Australia and New Zealand. Milk production is also on the increase in South-East Asia, including countries not traditionally noted for their milk consumption, such as China, which now has over 12 million cows producing milk.

Over the last 50 years, dairy farming has become more intensive to increase the amount of milk produced by each cow. The Holstein-Friesian, the type of dairy cow most common in the UK, Europe and the USA has been bred to produce very high yields of milk. Around 22 litres per day is typical in the UK. The average yield in the US is even higher at over 30 litres per day. Milk production per cow has more than doubled in the past 40 years. If they were producing just enough to feed their calves, as nature intended, this would be about three or four litres a day.

In Namibia most dairy cows still have access to grazing on pasture for part of the day in summer, or even all year round. This is known as ‘zero grazing’, and is increasingly used in North America and parts of the UK for large and high yielding herds.

Intensive dairy farming results in an increasing number of welfare problems for dairy cows. Lectures were given at the workshop on how to prevent and deal with the most common health problems associated with increased dairy production.

Source : New Era