How cows gave birth

Milk production

 

Cows, like all mammals, only produce milk when they have given birth to offspring. Like humans, they are nine months pregnant and have a similar three to five week oestrus cycle, which corresponds to the menstrual cycle.

 

But dairy cows are not understood as living beings whose needs count or are similar to those of humans, but as production units. So that they can be used in industry, they are subject to a lifelong cycle of pregnancy and lactation. Long-term pregnancy begins for the cows from the age of two. They are artificially fertilized every year and are almost continuously pregnant so that they will produce milk continuously (1).

 

If they are nine months pregnant, they give birth. The calves are taken away from them shortly after they are born, which is always traumatic for the social and sensitive animals. The children are not allowed to drink their mothers' milk because their digestive organs are not prepared for the high milk fat content of the mothers and the risk of infection would be too high. In addition, the milk production of the suckler cows could decrease and a successful “follow-up insemination” could be delayed.

 

The cows are connected to the milking machine twice a day from the time they are born until a few weeks before the next. Since the cow teats are sensitive, the milking procedure in the automated dairy farm, in which the milking machines are also put on unprofessionally or too quickly, can often be painful.

 

A few weeks after giving birth, they are re-impregnated so that if their milk yield were to decline, they would give birth again and enter a new phase of lactation (2).

 

If the suckler cows were not fertilized again shortly after birth, they would no longer be economically viable after the end of their lactation period.

 

In the meantime, the lactation period has been extended from the original six months to 10 to 11 months. It can therefore be assumed that around half of the milk milked today comes from pregnant cows.

 

If follow-up fertilization works, a cow will be pregnant about 75 percent of her lactation time (3).

 

To produce one liter of milk, more than 500 liters of blood flow through the udder (4). The nutrients required for this enormous metabolic turnover cannot even be supplied by concentrated feed, which is why these are continuously withdrawn from the animals' bodies. The associated rumen over-acidification and other metabolic disorders as well as the loss of calcium therefore exhaust the cows completely in just a few years. Because that they produce as much milk as possible in the shortest possible time is the basis of profit for the milk producers. Although antibiotics are also used illegally as performance enhancers, milk yield decreases after a few lactation phases.

 

As a result of keeping, malnutrition and the overuse of permanent pregnancy and milk production, most cows are so “used up” after five years that they have become “worthless”.

 

Since they no longer bring in enough milk to be profitable enough, they are usually slaughtered at this young age. A cow that does not produce 7,000 kilograms of milk during its first lactation phase immediately ends up in the slaughterhouse because its future milk yield would be too low (5). Their natural life expectancy would be 15 to 30 years.

 

 

 

 

 

1 Maria Rollinger: Milk better not, Erfurt 2004, p. 93.

 

2 Maria Rollinger: Milk better not, Erfurt 2004, p. 93.

 

3 Assuming that the standard lactation period is around 300 days, i.e. 10 months, and the dry period (between lactation and the birth of the next child) is around 40-60 days.

 

4 Rolf Dieter Fahr, Gerhard von Lengerken (ed.): Milcherzeugung, Frankfurt a.M. 2003, p. 55.

 

5 Rollinger, p. 96.