Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Cow

Ever wonder what a cow does all day? She leads a pampered life spending the majority of her time resting.

A typical cow on our farm allocates her time to these activities;
    12 ½ hours/day lying down and resting
    10 hours/day eating, drinking, chewing cud, exercising and socializing
    1 ½ hours/day in the milking parlor

The daily schedule of one of our cows looks like this;

6:30am Cows from barn #3 walk down the lane to the milking parlor to be milked
Cows walking from their barn to the milking parlor
The cows wait in the holding pen until it's their turn to be milked
Being milked in the parlor
Another view from inside the milking parlor
When the group is done milking, the bar raises and they walk out
They can hang out, get a drink of water and then walk back to the barn on their own

7:00am They return to the barn to eat, drink, rest and socialize. After being milked, the cows usually head back to the barn to eat. They have access to feed and water all day.
Having something to eat back in the barn

2:30pm Going back to the milking parlor to be milked for the 2nd time

3:00pm Return to the barn to eat, drink, relax and socialize. The cows are free to choose which activity they do while in the barn. 
Cow #5784 rests while a group of cows eat in the background
Cows are free to roam around in the barn
A cow relaxing on a sand bed
Socializing around the water trough

10:30pm One last trip to the parlor for their final milking of the day

11:00pm Return to the barn to relax until morning

It's extremely important for a cow to have 12 or more hours of rest each day. To encourage plenty of rest, we make sure the cows have a clean and dry place to comfortably lie down.

Cows spend almost eight hours each day chewing their cud. It’s common to observe the cows chewing their cud while in the milking parlor or when they’re lying down. Research shows that cud chewing is a sign of cow comfort and health. So we love to see our cows chewing!

Cows are frequently observed in groups. They seem to feel safe and content when they are around other cows. They socialize throughout the day by eating in groups, standing around the water trough together and licking each other.

Life’s good when you’re a cow!


  1. Are they allowed to go outside/on pasture in nice weather?

  2. Thanks for the comment and for being a consistent follower of my blog! Our cows live in freestall barns full time. They are outside when going to and from the milking parlor. There are a variety of ways to house dairy cattle; freestall barns, tie-stall barns, open lots, etc. Our freestall barns are temperature controled, have comfortable sand or sawdust beds and are cleaned three times each day. Our cows thrive in this environment.

  3. Thank you for an informative write-up about how well your cows are taken care of! They are very clean cows, too, which shows a lot of attention to detail, a good facility design and lots of hard work. Your pictures are just as informative as your words, as usual. Great work, again!

  4. Thank you very much for the information, Can you plz let us know how you clean Sand / Saw dust bed, daily you will clean?

  5. The dirty sand and sawdust bedding is removed and replaced with fresh clean bedding. This is done regularly to keep the beds clean, dry and comfy.

  6. Hello! Thank you for your blog. It means a lot to me that the food and drink my family eats is not used at the expense of unhappy animals. Your cows seem happy enough... like indoor cats in stead of out door cats. They can be content. I understand it costs a huge amount to make fences enough for grass fed cows. Not everyone has the space or fences to do it. How do you feel about growth hormones and other things that cows often eat? And how common is it for cows to be able to wander about freely in barns? Is there something on the label of a milk bottle that could tell us--like stall-free or something?

  7. Thank you for the comment. I appreciate the fact that you want to know cows are being treated well! Our cows are very well cared for and live a pampered life in their barns. Freestall barns, like ours, are common on dairy farms. In these barns, cows have the freedom to relax, walk around, socialize, eat or drink whenever they want.

    Regarding hormones, dairy cows are not fed growth hormones. All milk contains trace amounts of natural hormones which are digested in humans as protein. Some cows are supplemented with rBST to produce more milk with fewer cows. BST is a naturally occurring hormone in cows so milk from cows supplemented with rBST and cows not supplemented is the same.

    I don’t know of a label on dairy products that lists the housing method. The milk you purchase at the store comes from a processor who receives milk from a variety of dairy farms who use variety of management methods. There is more than one good way to house and care for cows. Because many farms provide milk to the processor who packages it for retail sales, it would be challenging to find milk that comes from farms using the exact same management and housing methods.

  8. Hello! Your site is very helpful. I know it is important to hear from farmers about farming, and not just from people who don't believe we should eat meat or dairy products at all. I was glad to see your cows can roam about the barn. Are there a lot of farms in America where cows can never leave their stalls at all?

    On farms like yours, how often do the cows give birth to keep up their milk supply? And are there many farmers who refuse to send their male calves to become veal? I suppose every farmer has his own standards to keep to, but well, where do you draw the line on your farm? Thank you for this blog! Please know that many like me would be willing to pay more for milk, etc, if we knew farmers needed it to keep in business, and also for the sake of the well being of the animals. You keep sharing the facts, and we--hopefully-- will learn!

  9. I’m glad you found my blog! Thanks for taking the time to examine food production from a farmer’s perspective. There are barns where cows are housed in stalls, but many of those farms have pastures where their cows roam when the weather is nice.

    On our farm, and the majority of dairy farms, cows have one calf each year. Once they have their first calf at 2-years-old, they produce milk 10 months and are dry (not milking) for 2 months when they rest before having another calf and begin the cycle again. The majority of dairy farms send their bull calves to the auction where they are purchased and raised for beef production. There are two purposes for dairy bulls; beef production or breeding. The majority are used for beef.

    I appreciate the fact that you consume dairy products. Thank you for your willingness to pay more for milk but milk pricing is complex and farmers receive a small percentage of the retail milk dollar. The price of milk is based on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and changes each month. We dairy producers have no control over what we are paid for milk. We also have no control over our input costs. Half of our monthly expenses are cattle feed, which is doubled and tripled in price over the last few years. There are many challenges, but we love what we do!

  10. Hello Brenda,
    Again, I commend you and your family on the treatment of cows. I do have a question: Why are so many caws mistreated in some of the huge commercial dairy farms operated here in the US? No, I’m not a vegan, but I would like to see humane treatment/slaughter of animals in our food chain.
    Paulo (Tulsa, OK)

  11. I agree humane treatment of animals is essential. I know dairy farmers who raise 50 cows and dairy farmers who raise 3,000 cows. One thing most dairy farmers have in common is they like working with animals. That's the main reason they are dairy farmers. I realize there are some videos out there that show poor treatment of animals, but that is not normal and not acceptable to any dairy farmer I know.

  12. I have been told that a Dairy Cow has to be impregnated every year and give birth to calf to keep producing milk, is this true? Also where do all these calfs go? and if they are being milked for us where do the calves get there milk from?

    1. I've addressed most of your questions in my comments above. Regarding where calves get milk, we feed the calves milk produced by the cows. They drink this milk from a bottle or bucket.

  13. Hello! What about the idea of grass vs corn? I heard too much corn is not good for cows. What is the mixture of grains they generally get at your farm, and how long can they live on this?

    With grain costing so much now, would it still cost more to keep the land to let them graze themselves? I suppose they need a huge amount of fields to graze.

    1. Most cows eat grass and grain (including corn). I know many books and movies tell the story of “grass based diet good and grain based diet bad”. Our cows are fed a diet that is right for their stage of life. We work with a nutritionist who provides a recipe for each group of animals based on their age, stage of milk production, etc. Currently, these recipes includes corn silage (the entire corn plant, ear, & cob chopped up), soybean meal, distillers grain, ground corn, hay, soy hulls and a vitamin/mineral mix.

      Some dairy farmers graze their cows part of the year, some don’t. It depends on a variety of factors including farm size, land base available, management style, and weather to name a few. Our cows don’t graze, their feed is delivered to them. This method works well for our farm and our cows.

  14. Hi- curious vegetarian here! First let me say that it looks like you take awesome care of your cows! I was just wondering- what is the life span of your cows? I've heard they can potentially live for up to 20 years but that this is drastically reduced after life as a dairy cow. Is this true? Also how long do they produce milk and what happens to them afterwards?

    1. Thanks for the comment about our cow care! The average age of a cow on our farm is 5 to 6 years old. The oldest cow on our farm is 12 years old. Our goal to provide good care and keep cows healthy so they stay in the herd as long as possible. Each month there are cows that leave our herd due to a variety of factors including low milk production, unable to get bred or injury. If they are a healthy cow, they go to beef production.


Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment! I’m opening the doors of our farm to share with you and enjoy engaging in discussion. Please be respectful in your comments. I reserve the right to remove posts that include name calling, slander, and vulgar language or contain links to websites that assault animal agriculture.

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