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The Truth About Caring for Cows

a young holstein cow with a blue sky background

Cows that are content and comfortable make the best milk! Keeping cows content is imperative to the quality of milk that is produced. Dairy farmers go out of their way to ensure their cows are comfortable, content and well-fed. In maintaining a cow’s level of comfort, the biggest factors to consider are food, habitat and interaction.

Cows are adaptable to their environment, so you’ll find dairy cows live in many different types of situations. Some cows live outside for most of the time, some cows live in specially designed barns called free-stalls, some live in a different type of specially designed barn called tie-stalls. No matter their type of shelter or location, dairy farmers make sure the cows have room to roam and have free access to feeding and drinking areas. Just as we are happier in a comfortable setting, a cow’s contentment also relies on her environment. This includes sanitation, temperature and interaction with other cows.

Overcrowding is one factor that can stress cow. To avoid this, farmers make sure cows are housed in situations where they have adequate access to stalls, feed and water, in a group size where they will not be competing with other cows for these resources. The cows’ living area is also kept dry and clean, to help protect them from illnesses. Every farm has its own technique to keeping the stalls clean, whether it is through manual labor or agricultural technology.

Whether it is with humans or fellow cows, positive interaction is also a major asset to the contentment of a cow. Positive human-animal interaction lowers the stress of cow and increases production and quality of milk. Due to their panoramic vision and poor depth perception, cows interpret sounds, sights and movements differently than humans. Positive interactions that will keep a cow’s stress level include moving slowly around the cows, steadily stroking and rubbing on the cow’s back and even communicating.

Dairy cows are milked three times a day, and this adds up to around 6-7 gallons of milk a day! Producing all of this milk requires a good amount of energy. Just as we rely on milk’s nutrition to get us through the day, dairy cows also rely on a daily supply of nutrients themselves. In maintaining a balanced diet, cows consume a mixture of grains such as grass silage, corn, alfalfa and other plants.

The contentment and health of a cow is something farmers take very seriously as it is the reason they can deliver high-quality dairy foods like milk to your family!