The humble dairy cow should be sacred

What other animal gets up at 5am in the morning, walks 2km to the cowshed to the noise of motorbikes behind and dogs yapping? The cow happily walks into the often slippery concrete yard to wait in the queue to be milked up to 1½ hours later; to have heavy, rubber lined hanging things placed on her tender teats without any notification. Should she protest with a kick then the punishment may be a punch or a hit from someone she cannot see. These sucking things hang on there while she lets her milk down and once finished they are unceremoniously yanked off with a great clatter.

She is then free to go out in line with the other cows. She may have had her breasts sprayed with antiseptic liquid and may also have to walk through a footbath containing a blue liquid material which may scald her feet. She is then able to amble back down the paddock and consume as much grass as she can, providing there is sufficient of course. She will drink up to 50 litres of water and produce 15-20 litres of milk each day. That milk is between 1 and 2 kg of milk solids which is roughly equivalent to 300 – 400 1kg packs of butter annually. After 9 – 15 years she may then be sold as a boner and is ground into more food for humans, being beef.

Now back to the paddock. She sits out in the rain or the beating sun and chews the cud by bringing boluses of grass back from one of her stomachs and further masticating it. She will eat green grass, grass or maize silage, straw, hay, onions, and potatoes not to mention kiwifruit and a few avocados. She will have her water laced with trace elements which may make the water bitter and difficult to drink.

She may get a steel tube in her mouth at the cowshed squirting bitter salts and bloat oil in the morning and the afternoon in the bloat season.

She may eat bits of steel found in the paddock called 'hardware', eat bale wrap and a lot of dirt and anything else that is not tied down. Hopefully all this material has been courteously removed by the two-legged men or women who totally control her every moment.

In summer when the day is at its peak heat it is time to be rounded up and chased back to the shed to repeat the milking process over again.

She may walk up to 10,000 km in her life on rough and often stony races. She may occasionally get sore feet, which will result in having her foot painfully tied to a pipe rail and have it tidied up with a sharp blade. Stinging material may be applied to her foot and bright coloured paints will certainly be squirted on her udder and back to show that she has had foot-rot. She may also have an injection of penicillin unceremoniously deposited deep into her bottom tissue which makes her jump. Her milk for that period should be fed to the pigs because it may put a 20,000 litre silo of milk off and result in her boss getting fined heavily.

Her body weight can vary greatly according to available feed and the number of milkings she does. It can go from a condition score of 3 – 6. If she lives in the West Coast continuous rain can rot her hair and make it slide off her back and make her look bald, cold and unsightly.

She is born in August and exactly two years later she has grown into a cow ready to go to the shed and do a service for the farm, the farmer and her country. If she misses getting pregnant because she is so busy milking she normally ends up as sausages. So she could have a really short life.

Being naughty and kicking a lot, having repeated sore feet, getting mastitis, and/or just getting sick can also reduce her life expectancy significantly. If, particularly in the spring, she should drop to the ground with imbalances in her blood system and she is unable to balance the things that are happening to her post calving she will get a sharp needle (hopefully it is sharp) jabbed into a vein where often cold liquid is mainstreamed into her blood. She is expected to stand up straight away and if she doesn't all manner of methods are resorted to, to try and make her stand up. Most of which are unsuitable to describe in this article.

The humble cow will milk for 250 to 300 days each year. She never complains and shows up every day. Drying off is done by limiting water and not milking her until the pressure in her udder and not going to the cowshed makes her then cease having let downs. And if that's not enough insult to injury try getting a white tube of 'Dry Cow' roughly jammed up your tender nipple and removed at the same speed it entered.

So now its winter and she has survived on 3 hours of rapid eating each day. This winter can be long and cold with the food often arriving late and not enough of it on freezing cold days. More than that there is often little shelter for her to hide behind so life can be quite tough. As the days start to lengthen she will be put in the springer mob. The springer mob is not a gang or a breed of dog but a mob of cows close to parturition or calving. She is kept awake at night by those two legged people with torches checking to see if she's calving or has calved. Once calved, it is back to the shed, the calf is removed and those rubber lined metal cups jammed on her swollen teats again. And look out if she kicks. Retributions can be serious. If there are some lady milkers in the cowshed the retributions are a lot less severe.


I could go on forever but you can see why we should make the humble dairy cow sacred.

The New Zealand economy is dependent on her as are all our politicians who would really prefer not to acknowledge the farmer and his cows as the biggest export industry in the country.

More than that she is a tireless athlete who is never allowed to give up because it's too hard. She is subject to a large range of care and some neglect with no way of striking back. She must be the second most amazing animal on this earth only superseded by the human race.

New Zealand's prosperity over the next few years is going to be underpinned by the humble dairy cow. Every person in this country should respect her position and she should really be sacred.


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