A cow’s natural lifespan is 20-30 years. Cows used by the dairy industry are usually killed after only five years.
Cattle are animals that naturally live in herds, form a social hierarchy, need exercise (freedom of movement), solitude prior to giving birth to calves and opportunity to express normal maternal behaviour.
Why do we keep them as farm animals
We keep them to produce milk and milk products.
How do dairy cows live on farms
Dairy cows are raised in a confined space and in strictly controlled conditions of housing, nutrition and reproduction, in specially designed cubicles with a goal to produce as much quantity as possible of the final product for the shortest period of time and with the lowest possible cost.
Cows are kept in a confined space, separate cubicles, tethered. In order to save space, cubicles are constructed in a way that animal can not turn around itself, but only can lie down. Floors are sloped to allow easier runoff of excrement and often there is no bedding (straw) at all, or the floor is slatted to allow easier cleaning, which causes feet problems.
Dairy cows must give birth to a calf in order to begin producing milk. From the moment a heifer is brought to its cubicle and tethered, she doesn’t leave the cubicle for the rest of her life. There she will eat, sleep, urinate and defecate, be inseminated and their she will give birth to a calf. Calves are separated from their mothers very early on, sometimes immediately after birth (in the first 24 hours). That way, the milk production is increased and the gap between two pregnancies is shortened.
The goal is to have dairy cows forced to have a calf every year. They produce 20 liters of milk per day, which is 25% more than a century ago.
Cows are herbivores, but besides the plant based diet (hay, straw, silage, etc.) in intensive systems of production they are also fed concentrates of animal origin. This concentrates are based on meat and bone meal or blood meal, which are by-products of meat processing in slaughterhouses or dead animals. This type of animal feed has bigger nutritive (energy) value as a good source of protein and easier (cheaper) production as a by-product of the meat industry, which is why it is used. Simply put, in order for a cow to produce 20 liters of milk per day, if fed only plant based food, she would need to eat and digest several hundreds of kilograms of food which is physically impossible.
However, after collecting evidence that use of feedstuffs containing animal by-products have been the cause of the mad cow disease (BSE), legislation both in the EU and in our country have prohibited the use of animal protein in diets of ruminants (cattle and sheep).
DID YOU KNOW?
Around 50% of beef we eat is a by-product of a dairy industry – surplus of calves and dairy cows at the end of their production life.