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Standard intenstive milk production

Dairy cows tend to:

  1. Be high-yielding breeds such as Holstein-Friesians, which has resulted in a dramatic increase in milk production in recent decades and increased the reliance on concentrate feeds.
  2. Produce a massive amount of milk. Whereas a beef-suckler cow would naturally produce around 4 litres of milk per day, a dairy cow will produce an average of 28 litres per day over a period of 10 months. During peak lactation, a high-yielding cow may produce as much as 60 litres per day and up to 12,000 litres over her whole lactation.
  3. Be subject to intensive breeding regimes for high yields. This has led to poor fertility, metabolic disorders and health and welfare problems.
  4. Have a short productive life. Dairy cows typically only live to their third lactation – at around 5 and a half years old - before being culled. Naturally, a cow can live for 20 years.
  5. Be permanently housed or have access to pasture during limited periods (e.g. in the dry period, when the cow is not producing milk).

Dairy calves for meat production tend to:

  1. Have limited market value as a beef breed (due to poor body conformation) and, as a result, will generally either be shot shortly after birth (in the UK) or transported to Europe to be reared for veal, often in intensive systems.
  2. Be mainly male (as females are largely kept to rear as replacement cows).
  3. Often suffer from a lack of adequate colostrum intake and therefore be of poor immune status, unable to fight off disease and infection adequately.