The Amazing Dairy Cow

Why are most dairy cows black and white? How are dairy cows different from cattle that we eat? To put it simply, dairy cows are quite amazing but that amazing creature comes with a complexity most don’t think of. Dairy cows are able to efficiently provide a high-quality protein and calcium-packed product that we can digest. But how do they accomplish all of this? You will learn all you could ever want about our amazing dairy cows in this blog post!

A cow does not produce milk without a baby, just like humans. So dairy cows have a baby once a year. On the farm, our baby calves to be born year-round, unlike many beef cattle where there is a specific season or time of year for calving. Now, like humans, each cow is unique. But a general rule of thumb is that ‘most’ dairy cows produce a healthy amount of milk for just over 300 days after calving; they need about 60 days of rest before they have another calf. This time is like the cow’s maternity leave. Unlike humans, cows get their maternity leave prior to the baby arriving. Maternity leave is all about rest and relaxation. Expecting mothers are turned to pasture and our main focus is keeping them comfortable and well fed. If all of our cows were on the same schedule, we would have 60 days out of the year where we don’t have milk to produce any of our dairy products, and it would leave us without any revenue for the farm. Even when cows aren’t producing milk they need to be fed and cared for just the same.

This makes each day different on the farm since no cow is on the same day of her 365-day schedule. We have three people on our farm dedicated to caring for the animals at every stage along the way.


Why are most dairy cows black and white? Holstein dairy cows are black and white and are the highest milk producing breed of cow. Holsteins are also the most popular breed for dairy farms because a top producing Holstein can produce 75 gallons a day- but that’s record-setting milking. Most dairy cows produce 10 gallons of milk a day. We’ve had a few other breeds of cows on our farm, but the truth is, we love Holsteins. We feel they have a good temperament. When we first started dairy farming we had young kids around helping and we felt that the Holstein cows were good family cows – kind of like how families pick out dogs!


How are dairy cows different from cattle that we eat? Dairy cows tend to be tall and thin. They don’t put on a lot of muscle, because their whole body is dedicated to producing lots of milk. Beef cattle are the opposite. They tend to be shorter and more muscular, which is why we eat beef cattle. Beef cattle still have udders for their young, although they do not produce nearly as much milk as a dairy cow. Humans have selected the genes for dairy cows that make them so efficient in producing milk, that they are far superior to their beef counterparts.


Fast Dairy Facts:

In recent years, the amount of dairy farmers has decreased. It’s been a challenge for dairy farmers to break-even or have things pencil out with the way milk prices have been the last few years so a lot of dairy farms are no longer in business.

Although the number of dairy farms has decreased steadily over the past 20 years, the amount of milk produced per cow has increased. Which means the farms that are surviving are investing in new technology or coming up with a unique business model that increases production.

Milk is 87% water and 13% solids. The solid portion is comprised of lactose, fat, and protein.

Iowa is ranked 13th in Milk production nationally.

A dairy farmer can receive 18% more milk from their cows if they milk three times a day, instead of two. But that’s a lot more work too!

Cows have 4 stomachs- classifying their digestive system as a rumen. The rumen is what allows cows to be able to fully digest grasses. Other rumen include sheep, deer, and giraffes.

Flavored milk consumption has doubled in the past 10 years. Who doesn’t like an ice cold glass of chocolate milk?

  • Posted by Elizabeth Uthoff
  • On June 24, 2019
Tags: cows, diary, farm, fresh, history, holsteins, production