Dairy cows are cattle raised because of their skill to produce large quantities of milk from which dairy products are made. Every breed can give milk, but its nutrient content and the amount will have a different range of protein and vitamins.
Types of dairy cows
One of the most popular breeds is the Holstein-Friesian dairy cow, known by its colours – black and white.
In most cases, dairy cows are part of the species Bos Taurus.
Here is a list with most common and also most rare types of dairy cows:
- Ayrshire cattle;
- Brown Swiss – Second largest amount of milk produced in any dairy cattle breed;
- Buša cattle;
- Canadienne cattle (one of the rarest kind in the world);
- Dairy Shorthorn;
- Dexter cattle;
- Guernsey cattle;
- Holstein-Friesian cattle;
- Illawarra cattle;
- Irish Moiled;
- Jersey Cattle Jersey (has a very high content of butterfat in the milk);
- American Milking Devon;
- Milking Shorthorn;
- Norwegian Red;
- Red and white.
Distinctions between dairy cattle and beef cattle
Even there are some breeds that can be raised for a dual purpose – milk and meat (for example, Irish Moiled) these type of breeds are rare. Nowadays, the cattle industry is more specialised, and the most dairy cows have been bred to produce large quantities of milk, with rich nutritional content.
Keeping the cattle healthy and strong is a must in order to improve milk production and breeding. It is also known that nutritional requirements may not be the same to all dairy cows. In fact, an adequate nutrition program can be implemented to correspond to the cow needs and depend on the animal’s age and stage of production.
The dairy cows must have a healthy diet, based on a balance of quantity and quality amounts of nutritional fodder rich in proteins, minerals and vitamins. Besides, the dairy cattle must be provided with fresh and clean water all the time.
The feed requirements for the cattle usually includes a combination of grass, grain and a mixture of other ingredients like citrus pulp, almond hulls and cottonseeds. Feed rations can be enriched with various supplements essential in milk production that can improve fertility and also plays a significant role in the development of healthy bones in the growing fetus.
Discoveries show that cattle are one of the first animals to be domesticated around 10,000 years ago. Found in most areas of Europe, Asia and North Africa, they were bred for desired characteristics such as high milk production and meat. It is said that dairy cows of present-day descend from wild ox – known by Latin name „Bos primigenius”.
One fact well-known about the production of the milk is about the improvements made by commercial farming nowadays. In the 1800s, every cow produced an average 1000 litres of milk while today regularly annual dairy is over 10,000 litres per cow.
Calving and weaning
One important fact regarding the cow’s feeding after calving is the dairy meal which consists of 3 kg of concentrates per day. Although, the feed requirements after calving and during the weaning could depend on the type of breeding and each cow.
Calves are usually weaned at around eight weeks old, but some producers will choose to do this earlier to save costs.
It will be provided hay or barley straw to the calves to chew on as early as one or two weeks old. In this way, their stomachs will develop faster. Afterwards, they can get dried food (at around two weeks old).
The calf needs to receive colostrum (the mother’s first milk) to improve their immune system. The cow is separated from the calf within the early few days, and in this way, the cow can be milked for human consumption.