See DFO’s statement regarding Covid-19
The herd, and every individual cow in it, represents a dairy farmer's greatest responsibility. That's why we use science to make sure the cows are healthy.
We collect smart health data from when they're calves to full grown cows, partnering with veterinarians to keep them in their best health.
Most dairy cows are bred using safe and scientific artificial insemination and bio-monitored every step along the way. The cow will stop milking for a two-month dry period before giving birth, so preparing for calving is her priority. Farmers keep close tabs on the cow throughout the entire gestation period, on average 276 days, to ensure optimal health of the cow and the calf.
A young cow who hasn't given birth yet is called a heifer. Heifers are usually bred at about 15 months of age and can't produce milk until they've given birth to a calf. They'll produce milk for about 10 months afterward.
Like any young animal, the calf will require special attention. Newborns are particularly susceptible to disease, so they're isolated and fed colostrum – the first of their mother's milk which is rich in antibodies – for their first three days.
Calves are fed milk or a milk replacement (similar to formula) until they're ready for solid food, which is gradually introduced into their diet under close supervision. A full-grown dairy cow eats 29 kg of specially formulated feed and drinks up to 180 litres of water a day..
Ontario dairy farms are all required to have relationships with licensed veterinarians who use the data they collect to keep the herd healthy. If a cow is treated with antibiotics, her milk is discarded until the medicine has completely cleared her system.
Cows get a lot of information by smell. They release pheromones that indicate when they're in heat or when they're distressed. A cow may avoid going into an area where other cows have been under stress.
How much do you know about cows? Here are a few little-known facts about cow health and habits.
Cows have two to three times more taste buds than the average human, so they literally have excellent taste – and can be quite fussy about their food.
A dairy cow typically spends 11 hours a day resting or lying, but they only need about four hours of sleep per day.
The practice of docking cows' tails, once thought to improve hygiene, has been banned on Canadian dairy farms since 2017.
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Protecting the environment can help reduce waste and costs while keeping farmland viable for future generations.
Advances in technology have helped make cows more comfortable, healthy and productive.
Dairy farmers work with government organizations and industry partners to help maintain Ontario’s high milk standards.