Masters of milk
About 1.3 billion cows live in our world, and they do much more than stand in fields all day eating grass! They are quite busy producing about 90 percent of the milk that human beings drink.
In one year, the average cow produces 2,000 gallons of milk. That’s about 30,000 glasses of milk from a single cow!
Human beings have long relied on cows, and not just for milk. For centuries before modern technology, they were used on farms to pull machinery used to tend crops. They also have been a leading source of meat, and their milk often is turned into cheese.
The vast majority — more than 90 percent — of milking cows in the United States are from the Holstein breed. They are black and white and each Holstein cow has a unique color pattern — just like every human being has a unique fingerprint. Other breeds, like the Jersey or Brown Swiss — generally are brown or gray.
Cows can live to be more than 25 years old. Females are encouraged to reproduce, as having offspring triggers the ability to produce milk.
The United States alone has more than 100,000 working dairy farms, the vast majority of which are family-owned and operated.
- Cows drink 25 to 30 gallons of water every day — enough to fill a normal-sized bathtub — and consume another 40 pounds of food a day.
- Cows chew on regurgitated food — commonly called the “cud” — about eight hours a day. Cows generally swallow feed such as grass whole, then regurgitate it back into the mouth. Cows then chew the cud so the food can be more easily digested.
- Cows used to be milked by hand, and even the best farmer could milk only up to 10 cows an hour. Modern technology has produced machines than can milk more than 100 cows an hour.
- Technically, mature female cattle are referred to as cows. A mature male is called a bull. All baby cows are called calves.