Today i saw a post about milk and noticed in the comment section that to many imgurians didn't know at all how dairy farming works these days. So here is a post about dairy farming in The Netherlands!
In the picture above you can see some of my cows, from left to the right: Viviane, Anet and Vroukje, yes i know them by name. This was last year when they went out grazing for the first time that season!
Some information to know about me and my farm:- I'm 22 and i study Agricultural Entrepreneurship Animal Husbandry (Bsc)
- I have a small farm with my dad, we milk 70 cows. (Average is 90 cows here)
- They are all 100% holstein-friesian cows
- Each cow give a around 9200 kg a mik a year with 3,55% protein and 4,50% fat. This is a mean some give more some less. Average cow in the Netherlands is 8500 kg a year
- We get a profit of €33 a 100 kg milk, But production cost (food-production, etc.) are €35 a 100 kg milk. Prices are very bad at the moment :(
Milk! How does a cow actually produce it??
Well first off she needs to be a female and at least have gave birth to a calf. A newborn will grow out until she is old enough to get insiminated by bull or by artificial insemination (we do artificial since bulls are dangerous) When she gives birth she is around 2 years old. The first milk is colostrum and is full of antibodies for the newborn calf (the newborn calf should have atleast drink at least six liters of colostrum in 24 hours). This colostrum will stay in the milk for around six days! This milk will not go to human consumption. After that we can start to milk for human consumption. After 120 days the milk production will reach it's top and will slowly go down until about 5 liters a day then we just stop milking them. Some cows continu producing for more than two years some are done within 300 days.
But how much does a cow produce? This depents on a lot of things!
- The breed!
Holstein cows give produce more milk than a jersey but a jersey produces thicker milk (more fat, protein) then an holstein. A belgian Blue is more a meat cow and doens't produce much milk at all.
- The food!
This is so so so important! If your roughage is low quality you get less milk then high quality roughage. A cow gets around 60-70% grass silage. The rest is corn and pellets (most likely soya scrap, the waste of human consumption!!!!! Please keep that in mind.). Also a lot of waste products are used to feed the cows like: beer brush (waste of beer) and the waste of suger beet. Some farmers give cows pure grass ration which will result is less milk but also less costs.
- A happy cow?
Yes! a happy cow produces more, stress has a lot of influences. Also light is important, a clean cow is a happy cow. Enough space to eat and lay down is very important!
- Milk is one of the only animal products that can be raw consumed without preparation
- Goat milk is more white than cow milk.
- If you can't handle milk you possibly have a lactose allergy or a casein protein allergy. Lactose is very common.
This is Vianne, with a newborn calf! Picture is quite old so she was around 3th lactation here.
Let's talk about pregnancy! And why everyone talking about ''forced'' pregnancy.
Once a cows calf for the first time she starts an lactation. This lactation will keep on for around a year maybe a little less or more. On around day 60-80 in this lactation she will be inseminated again because she already have been in heat for 2 times. Every 23 days if her cyclus is correct! When a female cow is in heat she is basicly horny af and rampages the whole herd to let them now she is in heat (some do not do that some do it extremely). The heat will take about 2 days to start and calm down again.
After insemination milk production will go down a little and they will keep producing until 6-8 weeks before expected birth (total of 9 months pregnancy). She then will be set dry without antibiotics or with if she had udder problems (subclinical mastitis). Then she has 6-8 weeks of vacation!! Until calving and the whole lactation starts over again.
So do we do ''forced'' pregnancy? Yes/No, yes we insiminate them when there in heat. But that's one time a 23 days. If you skip it she needs to wait. She will only get a calf once a 400 days if you're paying attention as farmer. Most farms go above 400 days. If you have a bull in your stable they will be inseminated just like in nature and then a cow will also get a calf every 400 days. Since they are the hunted not the hunters.
Pasture!!! Cows here go at least 120 days a year 6 ours a day to eat fresh grass in the summer :) In my opinion this is one of the most lovely sights to see!!
So what does a cow do all day? Well she eats, rests and shits and that's it.
She does this probably five times a day! some more some less. A cow has four stomach, the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum to digest the grass. This is the process: mouth > rumen > mouth (60-70 times chew) > rumen > reticulum > omasum > abomasum > tract. A cow carries around 100 kg of food with her all day. A cow that produces milk also drinks more then 100 liters of water a day. And when it is very hot more then 200 liters. Cows who do not need about 40-70 liters.
Basicly the main program of the day is lay down and chill. They only sleep around 20 minutes a day.
- Weight and height!A full grown holstein friesian weights about 600 kg and above. Some are 160 cm big some are 140. I sometimes here that people think that dairy cows are always very skinny because you can see all the ribs. Well a good condition is a ribs with a little fat on it. Not to fat not to skinny. If they get to skinny for a long time the milk will dry up and to get more fat. But my experience says: Some cows rather die then stop producing other rather get fat then produce milk.
- Acting around humans!
My herd is actually very calm so you can easly walk through them without them standing up and running away. Which i prefer! As a farmer it is good to see that they accepted you as leader of the herd. We even have a complete family bloodline who are very tame and even come to us to get some cuddles <3 :)
Some herds are not and a herd is basicly a reflection of the farmer. So that says something about some farmers :/.
Cows like temperatures around 4 - 16 Celcius. Lower or higher then that, they will spend energy to cool down or heat up. If the get five to less or the high they can get stress of the temperatures. Cows also hate rain and will always make sure there heads will not get wet by standing under a tree as close as possible together.
Jersey tax! ~ aahh cute
Thanks for reading for who had the time to read it all. I still have so much to tell about cows but it is time for bed now! Feel free to ask questions!
TL:DR Cows are wonderfull animals.