As promised I wanted to show you a year in the life of a cow. The first thing to note is, what I’m about to explain is the process that happens on our farm – other farmers have different systems and processes in place. The second thing to note is every cow is different and we do try, where we can, to treat them as individuals. Lastly I would like to highlight that by divulging this information I realise it may have a negative impact on certain members of the general public or it may make other farmers react in certain ways. I have taken the time to write this, with no opinions shown, just the facts given, so in turn I would appreciate negative comments to be kept at bay!
That being said, we can now move on and I can share the first stage of a cows year. Trying to work out where to start was really like deciding what came first, the chicken or the egg! So I thought it best to start from when a calf is born. A cow gives birth once she had been pregnant for 283 days. On average she is in labour (once the feet start to show) for 3 hours before we intervene to see what’s going on. Because we don’t have any heifers (first time mothers), all of our cows have given birth before, which means they know what they’re doing. We may need to help pull the calf out or it might need a vet to come on farm to help (this is very rare).
Once the calf is born, we like to leave mother and baby alone to be able to get the first milk (colostrum). The calf is usually with its mum for 24 hours to get the best start to life and take in all the nutrients it needs. The calf is then moved into an individual pen where we continue to give it milk (from the main tank) for up to two weeks where they will then be moved into a group of similar aged calves. They continue to receive milk until they are eight weeks old and then once they are weaned we sell all our calves (both boys and girls) to heifer/bull rearers.
The mother joins the main milking herd after 24 hours, she joins the high group so her diet can be managed and she is on a rich, sustainable grub that promotes milk production and helps recovery after giving birth. She is milked twice a day, with approx. 12 hours between each milking session. This means her milk will continue to be produced, just like a humans, when the demand is there. Initially they don’t produce much milk but this increases each day, each month until they reach they’re peak around 40 days after calving.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, the next instalment will be in a months time, explaining the next stage of the cows year.