Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska

Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska

Dairy Farming

Dairy CowsDairy farm families and their employees work every day of the year to milk, feed and care for their animals. A cow’s health is of great importance to dairy farmers. Proper animal care leads to the production of high quality milk. Nutritious diets, healthy living conditions and good medical care are all essential for a healthy herd, and these are among the many animal care practices routinely used by dairy farmers.

  • A dairy cow does not produce milk until she has given birth to a calf.
  • Following birth, the calf is usually removed from its mother after only a few hours. The newborn calf is fed milk or milk replacer until weaning at six to eight weeks of age. 
  • After weaning, the calf will be raised until it reaches appropriate breeding weight at about 15 months of age. Heifers are then maintained and continue to grow through their gestation. They usually calve, or give birth, at about 24 months of age. 
  • Male calves are either fed out like beef cattle or retained for breeding purposes.
  • Dairy cows eat about 90 pounds of nutritious feed a day.  That feed includes grass, corn, hay and mixed feed.  Cows drink about 25 to 50 gallons of water each day.  What a cow eats affects how much milk she makes.
  • Cows are milked two to three times a day on dairy farms. The average dairy cow can produce about 90 glasses of milk a day.
  • Milking machines gently remove the milk from a cow’s udder and transfer it to a refrigerated tank, where it is cooled to 45° F or less within two hours after the completion of milking.
  • Milk is picked up on the farm in large insulated tanker trucks and transported to a processing plant. It takes two days for milk to go from the farm to the retail store.
  • A cow typically remains in the dairy herd until about five years of age, although many cows are capable of remaining productive in the herd for 12 to 15 years.
  • A dry cow is a cow that is not lactating or secreting milk after it has completed a lactation period following calving.
  • Dairy farmers provide comfortable housing for their animals and regular checkups from a veterinarian to assure the health and well-being of their herd.

To learn more about dairy farming in Nebraska, check out these organizations: