The Life Cycle of a Cow

It was a pleasure to spend another day at Norton's Dairy with Emily Norton and her dairy cows.

We learnt all about the life cycle of the cow. In order for cows to produce milk they need to give birth to a calf. In commercial units, pregnant cows will be separated from the milking herd about 2 months before they are due to give birth (classed as ‘dry cows’). When a cow is ready to give birth she will try to find a clean and dry area away from other cows. As long as the calf is in the correct position for birth, the labour should not need any human assistance. The cow will often eat the afterbirth as this would attract predators in the wild. The new-born calf is licked clean by the cow and she encourages suckling by nuzzling the calf in the direction of the udder. It is important for the calf to receive the mother’s first milk (known as colostrum) which gives nutrition and contains immunoglobulins to give the calf protection its immune system is still maturing. The farmer normally separates the calf from the cow within the first few days, so that the cow can be milked for human consumption.