Desperation: the hard life of a typical dairy cow | Viva!

Desperation: the hard life of a typical dairy cow

Despite the myth of contentment, a typical dairy cow is the hardest working mother of all. She nurtures a growing baby inside her for nine months while simultaneously being milked for seven of those months. Owing to selective breeding, the amount of milk she is forced to produce has more than doubled over the last four decades. In the 1970s, a cow produced an average of 12 litres (21 pints) per day but by 2012 it had increased to 24.5 litres (42 pints) per day (Defra, 2013). High yielding cows produce an astonishing ANIMAL WELFARE The separation of dairy cows and their newborn calves is traumatic for both. Desperate cows can bellow for days in the hope of being reunited with their infant. This is THE DARK SIDE OF DAIRY and it means that a cow produces 40 litres (70 pints) a day. To keep the flow going, a cow is forcibly impregnated every year by artificial insemination and her first pregnancy occurs between 14 and 28 months old, giving birth to her first calf nine months later. Female calves may follow in the miserable hoof prints of their mums and be used as milk machines. Male calves who aren't killed soon after being separated from their mothers will be kept for the veal trade. They will be slaughtered at some point between the ages of five and nine months.