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June is Dairy Month - A day in the life of a dairy cow

Fri, Jun 3rd, 2011
Posted in Agriculture

By Nellie the Holstein, as related to Abby Stocker

Mooooo. (That means "howdy" in cow, in case you didn't know.) My name's Nellie, and I'm a dairy cow at Duschee Hills Dairy just outside Lanesboro, Minnesota. I heard June is Dairy Month and decided that it's high time that you humans got some perspective from me, the cow. After all, without me, the dairy industry wouldn't exist. So sit yourself down and let me tell you about my day.

4 a.m.--time to get up. All of us cows are divided into groups based on our age and how long we've been milking. Milking takes about four hours at our farm. If you think that seems long, try milking 200 cows in a 16-stall parallel milking parlor yourself. Yeah, it takes awhile...especially if you get a couple of slow milkers in there. I always get stuck milking at the same time as my friend Bessie, and she takes forever to milk. But at least I'm in the two-year-old group. We're milked last, so I can sleep in a little before the long wait for Bessie to finish.

7:30 a.m.--milking time! I get my favorite stall (the far end on the left), which means I can look out the window. I like it if I can have the same stall every morning; we cows are fond of routine. Most cows on our farm give anywhere from 50 to 130 pounds of milk per day--that's right, our output is measured by weight. My milk production is pretty average right now at 82 pounds each day. That's 10 gallons! As the months go by, though, I'll gradually give less milk until the farmers let me rest before I calve again.

8 a.m.--milking is done, so my friends and I head over to the free stall barn. I love this place. It's got lots of comfy sand to lay in, plus water and food ready and waiting. The best part is that I can roam around in the barn wherever I want, whenever I want. I can even spend hours socializing with the other cows.

I notice that two new calves have been brought down from the pasture this morning. I can't wait to catch up with their mothers--we haven't seen each other since they went on vacation to the pasture a few months before the calves were born.

9 a.m.--I hear the truck arriving to carry away the milk that my friends and I have given in the last day. It comes every morning. We cows have never quite figured out what the milk goes or where the humans do with all of it, since the calves are all still on the farm. Once, I saw a picture of a human with the words, "Got Milk?" printed underneath. We couldn't quite figure out why a human, instead of a cow, would be used to promote milk.

Noon--Time for a snack. The feed here is delicious. I've heard the farmer say there are about 25 ingredients that go into it, but I mostly taste the alfalfa haylage, corn silage, dry hay, and corn grain. Sometimes, when we're outside for exercise in the pasture, I can see the crops growing in the fields. My mouth waters as I imagine the taste of a nice, juicy stalk of corn...anyway, we sometimes get liquid feed made of alcohol and molasses. They say it gives us energy and supplies us with needed protein, but I always think of the molasses as dessert. Yum.

1 p.m.--I lay down next to a cow in barn who's been in this dairy for 11 years! She starts telling me stories of her younger days. Most of us are only milkers for about 5 years, so I can't imagine milking until I'm 11. She says she's given 212,000 pounds of milk in her lifetime--that's about four semi-loads! The thought of that much milk makes me tired...I think I'll take a nap until milking starts again.

4 p.m.--milking! We cows don't like it if we aren't consistently milked every 12 hours. I'm glad my turn is coming up--my udder is starting to feel full.

8 p.m.--All of us cows have been milked once again. Oh, that feels nice. The farmers all came in from the fields while we were in the milking parlor, so they're closing things up for the day. Nights are quieter, but a farm with some 200 cows, a couple of calves, cats and dogs, and a family of humans running around will never be completely silent. Every day around here is different, but I hope tomorrow isn't too different from today...I am a cow, after all. Now I'd best be off to my sand bed. We've got milking in the morning.

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