Dairy - Cows


Holstein dairy cows

Holstein dairy cows

The main product from dairy cattle is milk.  Cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream and cream cheese are just a few of the products made from milk. Dairy cattle are bred for their ability to produce large quantities of milk.

Cows are herbivores, meaning their diet consists of plant material, and have four separate stomach compartments. These compartments are called the rumen (first stomach compartment), the reticulum, omasum and abomasum. The average dairy cow eats approximately 29 kg of feed every day, and will drink between 80 to 180 litres of water. The feed may include grass, clover and alfalfa, hay, ground barley, oats, corn and soybeans. In order to produce milk, a cow has to give birth to a calf. These calves usually weigh about 40 kg. and are separated from their mother shortly after birth. 

By law all dairy animals in Canada must be identified by a National Livestock Identification for Dairy (NLID) ear tag. This enables the origin and destination to be traced so the nation's livestock industry and public health can be protected. 

In Ontario dairy farmers work under a supply management system administered by provincial dairy farmer organizations since 1965. This enables farmers to produce the correct amount of milk required by milk processors to meet consumer demand. There is a strict dairy inspection program to test milk quality in Canada. Samples are taken at every farm to be tested for quality and composition. Any milk that does not pass or comes from a cow treated with antibiotics is discarded. 

For more information about milk and dairy cattle in Canada, please visit  Dairy Farmers of OntarioDairy Farmers of CanadaBC Milk Marketing BoardAlberta MilkDairy Farmers of ManitobaFederation des producteurs de lait du QuebecNew Brunswick Milk Marketing BoardDairy Farmers of Prince Edward IslandCodes of Practice have been developed for virtually all farmed animal species in Canada. National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) website provides access to all currently available Codes of Practice. 

You can also contact the Dairy Educator for your area.

The Dairy Industry  program is 45 minutes in length with interactive activities and is based on the latest Ontario Curriculum and presented by a trained Dairy Educator.