The dairy cow is the land mammal that produces the largest quantity of milk. One cow alone can produce enough milk to fulfill the annual milk and dairy product needs of 150 people. Thanks to its digestive system with four stomachs, cows can digest plants that are rich in cellulose, such as the grass in pastures or harvested hay. This is a quality that the human stomach does not have!
The volume of milk produced by the cow depends on its genetic characteristics, race and physical condition. Quebec herds are made up of several dairy races: Holstein, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Canadienne, Jersey and a few others. The most productive race, Holstein, makes up over 90% of the Canadian herd.
Milk production also varies according to the quantity and quality of the pastures, hay and grains, soil and plant composition, and weather conditions.
Production is also a question of food management. On modern dairy farms, feeding dairy cattle is an increasingly more sophisticated task to manage. Daily meals are customized according to each animal’s potential, productivity and lactation stage.
Cows are normally fed five or six times a day. In one day, a cow eats over 20 kilograms of food and drinks around one hundred litres of water, which is the equivalent of a bath tub filled to the brim. Cows are milked at least twice a day, in the morning and the evening. A good cow can produce an average of 30 litres of milk per day.