DARE TO ASK: Got milk? Cows who give birth do
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
I was drinking a glass of moo juice a few minutes ago and it struck me: Does
a cow produce milk 365 days a year? Sounds like a dumb question, but look at
some of the questions readers are asking about sex and stuff like that around
Ron S., 60, Stockton, Calif.
I have no cow-related experience, but my significant other's sister owns a
dairy farm. Cows only produce milk after giving birth to a calf.
Dana, 34, female, Pittsburgh
A cow can produce milk every day for years. Not only that, most are milked
twice a day. I know of good dairy cows putting out 5 gallons per milking, twice
a day. That'll make a lot of mustaches! This is also why some dairy farmers
become so attached to some of their cows.
Keith, 40-ish, Ala.
A cow milks after giving birth. She will essentially continue to produce milk
as long as she is being milked. Many farms are going to milking cows three,
four, five or even six times a day. This is a huge amount of labor, but it seems
cows might be happier being milked that amount of time - remember, her calf
would be milking her constantly.
Bash, male, dairy vet, Pa.
We could open with a joke about cows, farmers and Alabama, but we'll just let
Keith's answer lie there in the hay.
Now you might ask: What are cattle doing in a column about human
cross-cultural differences? Is Dare to Ask treading on Dave Barry's sacred cows,
and if so, why aren't they exploding?
But hey, cows are people, too. And the machines that milk them are people,
The fact is, cows do need to keep having calves to give milk, says dairy
farmer Darryl Register, who runs D&D Dairy Inc. in Baker County. Ideally, they
are milked about 300 days a year, then get to rest about 60 days before giving
birth. Then the process starts again.
After having a calf, Mom is lactating big-time, peaking after 60 days, then
dropping off. At fever pitch, she churns out 14 to 15 gallons a day over two
milkings, gradually dropping off to perhaps two to three gallons per day near
the end of the cycle.
"And those girls, if you don't take care of them, they don't take care of
you," Register said. "So we have fans and sprinklers going in the hot weather to
keep them cool and comfy."
Now for some cultural stuff, brought to you by Dairy Farmers Inc., a Florida
Who drinks lots more milk than the average consumer? Kids through age 17, and
Midwesterners. Who drinks a lot less? Older people and African-Americans. (Can
you say lactose-intolerance?)
Who chugs more flavored milk? Kids 17 and younger, people making less than
$20,000 per year or between $60,000 and $70,000 a year, African-Americans,
Asians, American Indians, Midwesterners and Southerners. Who doesn't care for
it? New Englanders and people out West.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled grazing.
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.