We want to tell you a little about our operation and some about our girls’ personalities. A cow’s day is divided into resting, eating/socializing, and milking. Each day they spend approximately eighteen hours resting, three hours eating and socializing, and three hours milking. Their average weight is 1,500 pounds. Each cow drinks about 50 gallons of water per day and eats 100 pounds of feed.
Our Operation Break-Down
Our farming operation currently consists of one milking site with approximately 900 cows and three separate heifer raising sites housing 1000+ animals. Of the 6 main dairy cow breeds (Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, and Milking Shorthorn), we have Holsteins with a few Jerseys mixed in. We employ 20 full-time employees, and to be honest, the work is still never done.
It takes approximately 180-190 man hours every day, 365 days each year to complete daily jobs. Feeding cows, milking cows, medical examination of sick animal, fixing and maintaining equipment and property, feeding calves, delivering babies, moving and vaccinating animals, cleaning animal pens and changing bedding, planting and harvesting, removing animal waste, data collection and analysis, record keeping, and employee management are some of the chores to maintain our dairy farm.
A Cow’s Antics and Personality
By definition when we refer to a cow, we are talking about a girl cow, after she has had her first calf.
- Cows are just pretty lovable and fascinating animals. They LOVE to be in a group ~ very social! Cows are fairly friendly by nature. We rarely have a mean cow. In fact, if they are really friendly, they act almost like over-grown puppies. Cows love to approach you when you’re turned around. So, imagine getting a firm nudge in the back by a 1,500 pound animal when you are not expecting it. Guess they like to keep things exciting!
- Licking is a well-known cow trait, whether it’s licking up their food, your clothes, or any random object they decide to check out. They do not have teeth on the top of their mouth, so they do not bite. Their tongue is like getting licked with a large sheet of 150 grit sand paper.
- Cows are creatures of habit and LOVE consistency. We put a lot of effort into keeping feeding times and milking times consistent each day, all year-long. A cow’s walking routine tells us much about the well-being of the cow. We have pedometers on our cows which indicates when and how to intervene for the animal.
- These girls are… We’ll call it curiously smart. If there is a foreign object in their pen (paper, tools, boxes…), they’re going to check it out c.o.n.t.i.n.u.a.l.l.y. Usually by licking/eating it. Also if the gates are not latched properly or electricity is not running to the fences, count on them getting out of their pen within a few hours.
A funny story to emphasize this point… Years ago, we had an off-site cattle lot we rented. We would deliver feed there in a wagon.
This cattle lot was on a slight slope. The cows learned that they could put their heads through the bars of the wagon and then roll it through the gates and break free. We tried all kinds of things: wedging things under the feed wagon tires, stronger chains, wrapping the chain around the gates more times… Well, they say experience is the best teacher. So, after the cows got out several times, we ended up wedging something under the wagon tires and then closing the gate with a strong chain, and then latching it with a padlock. We also up-graded most of the fencing/gates at that location because it wasn’t “cow-proofed” enough. Cows don’t seem quite so cute and love-able after you’ve just chased them for a mile back to their pen. Like we said–“curiously smart”.
- This is an example of cow group mentality. Cows are pretty obedient and “go with the flow” when they are with all of their friends. However, when you need to separate them for vet checks or whatever, they definitely get nervous. Yet it is just straight up annoying if only one cow gets out of the pen. You can count on twice the work to get one cow in verses a whole group.
Cows are very likeable animals and we enjoy the challenge of raising them from babies to old cows. On another day we’ll have to tell you about bulls. Same species, but definitely a different personality!