The Life Of a Dairy Cow

Under normal circumstances a cow's life should extend for approximately 25 years. In practice, however, a normal lifespan for one of these creatures is around six to eight years. How does this come about?

A dairy cow is used to create milk, for consumption by human beings. In order to produce milk it is necessary are for her to be impregnated. Sometimes this is done naturally, but all too often by artificial insemination. What is the car has been born it becomes surplus to requirements, at least as far as the system is concerned; any milk it consumes means less for the human consumer so it is taken from its mother very shortly. This is an extremely traumatic event for both mother and calf after birth and both will show signs of extreme distress. The calf is then taken away to be reared separately, in a pen; if it is female, it is kept for the same purpose as its mother, and if it is male it's life is likely to be short, and it will be butchered for veal within a few short weeks.

In the meanwhile the mother will be milked for as long as she is able to produce it economically; this will of course be done mechanically, using a milking device which may well cause her to suffer from mastitis. This is not only a painful condition but could even lead to her death. Mastitis is the single biggest reason why cows are slaughtered early. Eventually of course the milk dries up. The cow will then be impregnated again in due course, and the process will be repeated. After about six cycles this will no longer be possible, and so this animal will be killed and sold for meat. Under normal circumstances, then, the life expectancy of a dairy cow is well short of the time that it would live for, if it had a more natural life. This is provided, of course, that it does not suffer lameness or other traumatic injury as a consequence of spending a high proportion of its short life in a small and restrictive pen. If this happens, an early final journey to the slaughterhouse is the likely result.