About the Cows and Calves

Cows and Calves in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming

There are six main breeds of dairy cows: Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Jersey and Milking Shorthorn. There are also red and white Holsteins. Most people think about black and white spotted dairy cows – those are Holsteins and most of the farms in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming have largely Holstein cows.

Only female cows that have had calves can produce milk. Before they give birth, female cows are Kids with dairy cow calvescalled heifers or calves. Male calves are called bulls. Cows usually have a calf about once a year and are often artificially inseminated to become pregnant, largely for herd safety reasons and success rates.

Dairy cows like to lie down for 12-14 hours a day and are happiest when they can do so in clean bedding like sand, straw or in some cases, even cow water beds. They prefer shady cool spots, especially in the summer. Cows don’t sweat, so when it gets hot, they need shade, fans and sometimes even sprinklers. They do best in weather from 40-60 degrees, so when it is hotter or colder than that, farmers take extra care to keep them happy. This ideal temperature range is also what makes our region so ideal for raising dairy cows.

Farmer with dairy cow calvesCows get regular visits from veterinarians and cow nutritionists and these caretakers ensure that cows get the right food and medical care. Sometimes cows get sick and when they do, veterinarians prescribe medication and the cow is removed from the herd until the medication is used up and she is feeling better. Medication given to cows does not get into the food supply – instead treated cows are milked separately, and that milk is safely discarded until the cows are no longer receiving medication and their milk tests clear of residue.

Dairy farmers work very hard to keep their cattle healthy and productive. Once a dairy cow is no longer producing enough milk, it becomes an important source of meat in the country’s food supply.

Here are some more fun facts about cows:

  • Cows can smell things up to 6 miles away.
  • The average US dairy cow produces 144 8-ounce glasses of milk every day!
  • Every day, a cow produces 17 gallons of manure, which is full of valuable nutrients. Some dairy farmers use this manure in their fields to fertilize crops.
  • There are about 9 million cows being milked in the US.
  • Cows need lots of water to drink – a bathtub’s worth each day.
  • A full grown Holstein cow weighs 1,300 – 1,500 pounds.
  • No two Holstein cows have the same spots.
  • Cows can see almost 360 degrees around themselves and see all colors except red.