The Magic of Cows

You cannot but admire a creation that is able to produce one of the most wanted products in the world in the most super-efficient way. Not undermining Lely’s creations and attempts at innovation, but when you’re up against Mother Nature, no one is a more powerful inventor than Mother Nature herself. 

The cow is a factory in itself. She has played a big part in our lives, whether we realise it or not. Many of us have grown up on dairy products like milk, butter, yoghurt cheese and cream. However, set against the 300,000-year history of our species, drinking milk is quite a new habit. The first people to drink milk regularly were early farmers and pastoralists (people who raise livestock) in western Europe. Today, drinking milk is common practice in northern Europe, North America, Africa and a patchwork of other places.

Even though dairy replacement products like soy have increasingly found their way to consumers’ hearts, global dairy production has increased every year since 1998. In 2017, 864 million tonnes of milk were produced worldwide. This shows no sign of slowing down and it’s expected to rise 35% by 2030. Overall, the world will need to produce 70% more food to feed the nine billion mouths expected by 2050. This will need to be achieved whilst maintaining quality, increasing sustainability and respecting both human and animal.

This is why cows deserve some special attention when thinking about population growth and the need for innovation within the dairy industry. Hence, this ode to the Magic of Cows. So, what is magical about these animals? Here are some cool facts:

  • The ‘mission statement’ for a cow is: ”thou shall convert organic material that is not suitable for human consumption into milk, meat and skin.” The moment we can do this (artificially) better in a factory, we won’t need cows anymore. However, thus far, they do a far better job than any factory process is able to do.
  • A cow has four stomachs. With those four stomachs, a high producing cow can deliver around 40 litres of milk or more, in one day.
  • Milk is complicated stuff. It has a varied nutritional makeup, containing proteins, minerals, fatty acids, etc. No ‘artificial replacer’ is currently able to duplicate this nutritional composition. 
  • Why can you not make cheese from, say, camel milk? Because the milk needs to contain casein, the main component needed for making cheese. In the cow’s case, they have plenty.
  • Cows are ‘holy’ in India. They are seen as a ‘caregiver’ or maternal figure.
  • Just like human beings, cows are pregnant for nine months, approximately 283 days.
  • To produce one litre of milk, 500 litres of blood is circulated through the udder.
  • A cow eats 8 to 12 times a day and ruminates 14 hours a day, which is when she produces milk. Is there time left to sleep you may wonder? Yes, there is, but a cow only needs four hours or less. However, she will ‘doze’ throughout the day.
  • Finally, did you know that cows can’t sweat? So how does she regulate her temperature? By panting. The optimal outside temperature for a cow is between minus 5C° (yes minus…) and plus 15C°. At 27C° a cow gets heat stress.