Moo-ve Over Olympic Athletes: Dairy Cows are Here to Compete
Editor’s Note: This blog was written by previous Milk Means More employee Bridget Moore and first published in 2020. With the 2022 Winter Olympic Games happening this month, we thought it would be fun to rerun it.
You probably have never thought of dairy cows as athletes, but there are many similarities.
Did you know that dairy cows eat like champions every day? Their bodies work hard to provide nutritious, quality milk, so they need to fuel themselves with healthy food choices. Their personal chefs (aka Michigan dairy farmers) provide for them. The dairy farmers work with dairy nutritionists to create a balanced meal for the cows, called cow’s casserole. They make sure the casserole contains the right amount of protein, energy, fiber, vitamins and minerals for the cow to maintain optimum health.
A casserole can contain:
- Corn Silage: the entire corn plant that is chopped and fermented
- Haylage: grass that is chopped and fermented
- Hay: a dried grass or legume, often cut and baled
- Cotton Seed: a by-product of cotton production that is left after the soft cotton is harvested for clothing
- Distillers Grain: a by-product that is a dried mash produced after the sugar and starch are used in ethanol and fermented beverage production
- Soybean Meal: a by-product of soybean oil production, sometimes pelleted for animal feed use
Some of these foods would have been sent to the landfill if cows didn’t eat them.
In fact, 80% of a dairy cow’s diet contains items humans can’t eat.
Cows also train hard every day by walking around the barn and strutting to the milking parlor. Cows bodies expend a lot of calories creating milk, so they don’t need to go out for a run or long walk like we do. Cows do need rest though, so they lie down about 12-14 hours a day!
Farmers use a version of Fitbit to track how active cows are to ensure they stay healthy and fit. It can go on the cow’s “ankle” or on their ear, or around their neck (like in the photo above). Dairy farmers also use type of technology to measure the cows’ food intake. If the cow isn’t eating the proper nutrients, the farmer is flagged to take the cow’s temperature and do an overall checkup.
Just like elite athletes, cows only receive mediation to treat the specific illness.
Specifically, antibiotics are only used if a cow has a diagnosed infection. The milk produced while the cow is receiving antibiotics is discarded. And just like athletes, a cow’s milk is tested for presence of drugs that should not be present! The milk is ‘DQ’d’ and cannot be bottled for consumption.
Holstein cows are the most common dairy cows in Michigan and produce a lot of milk. And they do this without being treated with additional hormones. Michigan dairy farmers care 365 days a year for their animals. They are so good at taking care of their mooing athletes that the cows naturally produce our favorite nine essential, powerhouse drink. Cow’s milk is safe and nutritious no matter what fat content level you prefer to enjoy as an athlete or to serve your family.
The next time you visit the grocery store, visit the dairy cooler, and remember the elite athletic team across the state of Michigan providing nutritious dairy foods for you naturally each day! Michigan dairy farmers and their “moo” team are happy and proud to help provide a wholesome product for you to enjoy!