The cow herd is absolutely central to the farm and in a sense we
owe them everything. In earlier times the cows pulled the wagons
and plows of the settlers; they still feed and
clothe us today and, above all, they sustain
the fertility of the land in which
all our food crops are grown.
On our farm we keep a herd of a little more than 80
milking Holsteins, one or two breeding bulls and about 80 head
of young female stock or heifers. We raise
the heifer calves to replenish our own herd and if we have too
many we sell them to other farmers.
baby calves are raised on whole cow's milk and after five months,
when they have started to eat enough rolled grains and hay, they
are weaned off milk and start living the life of a ruminant in
earnest. After about two more years the heifer should give birth
to her own first
calf and graduate to being a milking cow.
The milking cows' feed consists
primarily of fresh grass and rolled grains
summer and alfalfa
hay, silage and rolled grains in the winter. They get
supplement and salt to meet their nutritional needs. During
the summer months the herd spends a lot of their time in pasture,
coming in only
for milking. They spend most of the winter
in the barn, but still go outside for
fresh air and exercise.
average each cow gives about 25 liters of milk a day
do this for 300 days a year. They get two months off
for maternity leave, what we call the 'dry period.' Then, with
of the new baby calf, the cycle starts all over again. A
cow has to regularly give birth to a calf to continue to produce
lasts for 9 month and 9 days. She will usually have a calf