The Life Cycle of a Dairy Cow

Did you know that Canada has some of the best dairy cow genetics in the world? The semen is collected from purebred bulls at specialized breeding facilities. Farmers can purchase the frozen semen from renowned bulls to improve the next generation of their dairy herd.

A cow must first calve, that is give birth, before she produces milk. A heifer is bred at about 15 months in age, usually through artificial insemination. About nine months later, she has a calf weighing 40 to 50 kg. The calf is fed her colostrum, and when her lactation begins, the cow becomes part of the milking herd where she will produce milk for about 10 months. Did you know that an average dairy cow produces about 27 litres of milk per day?

The cow will stop producing milk during a two-month dry period before the birth of her next calf. Then the cycle starts over again. A cow can have several calves and lactations, the average in Canada being four to five lactations. To optimize costs and the level of production, the farmer keeps the best heifers (female calves) to renew about one quarter of his herd every year.

Half of all calves born are male (bull) calves, and a small percentage of these are raised for breeding purposes. Most dairy bull calves are raised for veal.