Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dairy cows produce milk beyond healthy capacity

Twenty five years ago, the average dairy cow produced 13,293 lbs of raw milk every year. Twice-a-day milking was the norm, and bovine growth hormones were an emerging topic of debate.

Today’s dairy cow now produces an average of 21,345 lbs of milk each year, a 61 percent increase over the past quarter century. That means that the average dairy cow weighing 1,400 lbs produces more than 4 percent of its body weight in milk each day.

Growth hormones and three-times-a day milking are major factors in the increase. So, too, are high-energy feed rations and genetic selection for animals with maximum milk output.

These modern milk-producing marvels carry bags far larger—and much heavier—than Mother Nature ever intended to hang below the belly of a cow. The genetic selection, feed rations and growth hormones maximizing milk production have done little to provide the cow with stronger muscles and larger bones to carry around the extra 58 lbs of weight every day.

So, by the time a cow reaches age five, she’s not only spent, she is literally used up.

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