From Farm to Market
Where Milk Comes From
At about 2 years of age, cows are mated to those genetically superior males—yes, bulls. Cows have a 9 month gestation (pregnancy) period and shortly before they are ready to give birth, the milk producing glands will begin to develop in preparation for feeding the calf. Milk is produced in mammary glands. On a cow, we call this the udder. Cows usually produce a single calf, but twins are not uncommon. When a cow is nearing the time to give birth, she is watched very carefully and checked often. If the cow needs help, the farmer is right there to lend a hand. The first milk produced is called colostrum. This is thick and rich and contains natural antibodies (actually proteins called immunoglobulins—say that five times fast!) that help protect the new calf from illness. The cow may be milked immediately after giving birth so the new calf can be fed right away and the cow made more comfortable. And so begins a cow's career as part of the milking herd (a group of cows). That's a great career!

MoreIt's milk production time.
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Copyright 1997 Kathleen A. O'Connell and Sean P. O'Connell
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