Hi everyone! There is absolutely no denying that cows are one of the most loved animals. And for many, it starts from a very early age. Go through any baby books, toys, nursery decor…you’re bound to be overwhelmed with how much “cow” there is. But really can you blame them?? From the big, loving eyes all the way down to their um…tail… and everything in between, there is nothing to not love about cows! Today I thought it would be fun to share some cool facts about our bovine besties.
Bos Taurus-Cattle as we like to call them have over 800 breeds under that affiliation. Buffalo, bison or brown Swiss all these beauts fall under classification.
Cattle are quadruped mammals with cloven hooves. What does this mean? They walk on all fours and their hooves are split into two “toes”. Goats, sheep and pigs all also fall in the cloven hoof pack, animals like donkeys and horses have one.
Cows spend between 10-14 hours of their day lying down. They will only spend about 4 of that actually sleeping(the rest of their rest is thinking of ways to cause trouble). Cows do have REM state(just like people)and although none of them have ever said, I’m pretty sure they dream. If you happen to catch a cow in their REM state, you’ll see ears twitching, mouth quivering, eyes rolling back in their heads…kind of seizure-like but just like your dog when he’s dreaming he finally caught that rascally rabbit.
Some cows will lie flat out when they sleep, especially if it’s a nice sunny day and they’re stretched out outside. This will then give the poor farmer a heart attack and he will yell “hey are you alive???” And she will slowly wake up and turn her head to the farmer and give him the dirtiest look you can ever imagine and then go back to sleeping. Oh, and since we’re on the topic, cows don’t sleep standing up. I’ve caught a few on occasion leaning their heads against a pipe or board and they were “resting their eyes” but if you plan on being a pro cow tipper you may need a back up plan. If a cow is napping, she will wake up when you touch her. If she’s not, she’s not going to let you just come up to her and start pushing. In fact, she will probably not only push back but also win. There is actually a whole science behind cow tipping(who knew?!) and it takes something like 6 full grown men to exert enough force to actually tip a cow. That’s without her fighting back. Not sure why you’d want to anyways? That is NOT how milkshakes are made!
Since we’re talking about cows being outside, a cows ideal temperature is right around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it hits that, you’ll see farmers start opening up the barn doors and curtains and letting spring into the barn. (Cows internal temp? 101.5)
So let’s go back to the cow tipping for a minute. So you have your 6 burly men and you’ve managed to sneak into the pasture(shame on you for trespassing into the cows home!!!), the only way a cow won’t see you coming is directly behind her. Cows have 300 degree vision, so unless you’re at her derrière (haha get it? Dairy??) she will see you coming. Oh, and you better have rolled in some of her manure(about 115lbs of it per day are produced by a larger Holstein-jerseys are much more petitie and lady like so less poo) because cows can smell up to 6 miles away! Not related to cow tipping, cows are also red-green color blind, so when the bull fighter is waving his red flag, it’s not the red that gets the bull going but the waving. Oh and also, cows can get easily scared so if so much as a blade of grass twitches the wrong way, it’ll send some one off bucking to the barn, and the rest will follow.
The rest will follow because cows are herd animals. What does this mean? It means some animals like the solo independent life, like tigers and some are herd animals and stick close together. Cows even have friends. Most of the time cows will have a friend(normally someone who was a calf with them) and they tend to stick together all the time. We have quite a few pairs who when you see one, you see the other. Interestingly in that pair, normally one is more dominant and the other more laid back. Farmers have also noticed cows may know their family members. There’s several farmers I’ve talked to who have noticed moms and daughters or sisters hanging together. On the flip side, cows also have enemies. You can’t blame them, I mean we all have at least one person we don’t like working with. There is also a pecking order in the barn and as soon as a new animal arrives, she must quickly learn what the order is.
Since we touched a little on the poo factor, we’all talk about food. Cows are ruminants. They have one stomach with 4 separate compartments. Cows eat and their food goes down into their rumen, where it mixes with some acidic juices and forms cud, and it is then regurgitated and chewed. And chewed. And chewed. For like 8 hours a day(not continuous, but after each meal.) Can you even imagine chewing for 8 HOURS a day??? I guess if your lying down for 14 you need something to do! Anyways, once the cud is properly chewed, it is sent back down to the other parts of the stomach. What are they doing all that chewing with? 32 teeth(people have 32 also!!) but they are different kinds, more molars and none on the front top. That’s just a pad. So if you see a cow smile, you won’t be seeing pearly whites up front.
Cows eat around 100lbs of food per day, bigger the cow, or the more they milk, the more they eat. Most cows are fed a mix of grain, corn silegae and haylage. Cows will drink between 30-50 gallons of water per day(to the moms out there that have breastfed-you know you are thirsty. All. The. Time.)
What else about cows? Cows are pregnant for 9 months(just like humans). Their cycle is a little shorter, around 21 days. When a cow comes into heat, she will very pleasantly inform you by bellowing as loud as she can 24 hours a day, chasing her friends around and trying to…do things with them which they can’t since they’re girls. But they try. We will leave it at that. (Any breeding questions feel free to check out my last blog). You can see Icy in the pic below concentrating very intently and giving her best go at breeding her fellow cow. It didn’t work.
Let’s just talk a little terminology. First you have a calf. That’s a baby. They can either be a bull(boy) or a heifer(girl). (Or both-it does happen on rare occasions). So a heifer is a young, immature female. Once she has a baby, she becomes a cow. Most farmers will still refer to them as heifers that first year of milking, kind of as a warning to others since they tend to be a little crazy. So that bull calf, if he keeps his manhood will always be called a bull. If his manhood is no longer entact, he is called a steer.
Lastly, let’s talk about dairy cows since that’s why we’re here. There’s 6 main breeds of cows that are our main dairy girls:
Holsteins. These are the big black and white or occasionally red and white ones you see all the time. They’re the biggest and tend to produce the most milk. A Holsteins spots are as unique as a persons fingerprint. Holsteins weigh in around 1300-1500 lbs on average. They originated from Germany.
Brown Swiss. These gals are brown or grey and have these ears that make you want to scratch them all day. They’re next in size and look like a cross between a donkey a cow and dumbo. Some say they tend to be a little (or a lot) on the stubborn side. Swiss weigh in about the same as Holsteins. They originated from Switzerland.
Jerseys. Jerseys are a lot smaller, weighing around 850-1000 pounds. They tend to have a higher butterfat and protein, making rich, creamy milk(whole milk at the store is around 3.5% butterfat, our jerseys average around 5%). Jerseys have a reputation as being trouble makers, as they are extremely curious and very nosey!! They originated from the Isle of Jersey.
Those are the three most common, next are still as awesome but not quite as common.
Ayrshires. Some Ayrshires are bigger and almost look like a red and white Holstein, but generally have a darker, mahogany color. They can have spots or be speckled. They tend to run a higher fat and protein as well. They weigh in around 1200 pounds. They originated from Scotland, and are known for their ruggedness. Also, if the horns are left on, they are quite a sight! They curl slightly and getting very, very long.
Guernsey. Guernseys, once again with a higher fat and protein are around 1000lbs. They are more of a light brown spotted or speckled color. They are from the Isle of Guernsey(close to the Isle of Jersey!) These islands are in the British Channel and there was one more type of cow, Alderney(from the Isle of) but is now extinct.
Milking Shorthorn. A little bigger around 1300 pounds. They have a really neat speckle to them and have higher fat and protein. They originated from England. The first shorthorn arrived in the US in 1783.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know about cows a little more! I will also add on a personal note, they love long walks in the pasture, back rubs and scratches and are free with their kisses to those deserving(which by the way is like a big cat tongue-fun but ouch!!!) Lastly, since we named three ways people and humans are alike, did you know you shared 80% of the same DNA?
Thanks for reading along friends! Remember to join me on the facebooks for more shenanigans!