What do cows eat?
Here in Ireland, the main diet of a cow is grass. On average and depending on the weather here, cows graze on grass for about 250-300 days of the year. During the winter months from December to February farmers house cows inside in sheds where they are kept dry and warm and are fed a diet of silage.
Farmers bring the cows indoors during these months because the grass outside is no longer growing, temperatures are lower and typically it is very wet due to plenty of rainfall.
Sometimes farmers add grain or nuts to their cow's diets to ensure their nutritional requirements are still met. These are often fortified with vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
Breeds of Dairy Cows
Are the highest producing dairy animal in the world. They can be found on every continent and in almost every country. They give a high milk yield with a medium butter fat percentage.
Are a well-built animal with a large appetite. They are a dual purpose breed and can have fast growth rates for finishing as beef. They give very high milk yields when well nourished and housed.
Cows start to produce milk after giving birth to a calf. Farmers milk their cows twice a day, typically in the morning and evening. It is important to milk cows because if they are not milked, it could lead to infections in their udders such as Mastitis. On average cows make milk for 10 months of the year. One cow can produce 28 litres of milk in one day!
Did you know that there are 18,000 Dairy Farmers in Ireland and 8 billion litres of milk was produced in Ireland in 2019.
Here is the typical milking process:
First the farmer brings the cows into the milking parlour. The interesting thing about a milking parlour is that the area which the farmer stands in to gain access to the cows udder is lower than the ground where the cows are actually standing. This allows the farmer to be eye-level with the cows udder.
Next the farmer inspects the cows udder to ensure there are no injuries or infections of the cow’s udder. The farmer then cleans the cows teats on the udder using a cleaning solution like iodine to ensure the area is all disinfected before collecting the milk.
The farmer then hooks the milking machine called a “milk claw” to the cows teats which are soft rubber suction cups that suck and pulsate to draw the milk out of the udder.
The milk then travels through a series of tubes and is collected in a large container called a bulk tank. Milk from all cows is collected in this bulk tank. The bulk tank is kept at 2-4 degrees.
Before the milk truck arrives to collect the milk, it is tested to assess the composition and hygiene quality of the milk. These tests are carried out on every delivery of milk to the milk processor.
What’s in my glass (Nutrition)
Milk is a suspension of protein, fat and other solids in water. However the composition of milk varies depending on the breed of cow. In a glass of milk there is protein which is important for muscle growth and bone development.
Calcium and phosphorus which is crucial for bone development and also healthy teeth. Potassium which helps our nervous and muscular system function properly, also it is beneficial for keeping your blood pressure under control.
Milk contains a range of vitamins including, Vitamin B2 which helps keep your skin healthy and protects your vision, B5 is for keeping our metabolism going and also reduces fatigue and tiredness. B12 is important for our red blood cell formation and also allows our immune system function correctly.