Care and Feeding of our Herd
Milking at the Canada Agriculture Museum:
Our team of herdsmen milk the cows twice a day, at 6 am and 4 pm, using a modern pipeline milking machine. With this system it takes 3-5 minutes to milk a cow, compared to 10-15 minutes to hand milk a cow. In one year, a cow is milked for 305 days, with a 60 day rest (dry) period. We are on the quota system, and our milk is sold to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, which in turn sells it to the dairies for processing and marketing. It is possible that you have consumed our milk today!
We invite the public to watch our herdsmen milk every afternoon at 4 pm.
To be healthy and to produce a high yield of milk, a cow needs a large quantity of digestible protein. She eats about 11 kg of hay (for roughage), 11 kg of oats, soybean meal and oil cake (flax or soya beans which have been ground and from which the oil has been removed) every day. She drinks 200 to 250 litres of water on an ordinary day — enough to fill a bath tub— and up to 400 litres on a hot day. Please note that our cows are well-fed by the herdsmen and are on a specific diet therefore visitors are asked not to feed the animals at the Canada Agriculture Museum.
Digestion and Milk Production:
Cows are referred to as protein machines because they convert grass into high quality protein. Cows are ruminants, which means they have four stomachs. Cows have no teeth in the front of the upper jaw, but have hard pads of gum tissue instead. For this reason they cannot bite or cut grass while grazing. They grasp the blades of grass in their mouths and tear them off. The grass is then chewed slightly with their flat grinding molars. When swallowed, it passes into the rumen (first stomach) which is the largest of the four stomachs — it takes up one half of the cow's body cavity! The cow will regurgitate a cud (or bolus) into the mouth from the rumen and reticulum (second stomach). Each cud is regurgitated and the cows chews it up to 60 times. The
If a cow eats correctly and in sufficient quantity, she will produce milk up to her particular physiological limit. If a cow is denied an adequate diet, she will produce the same quality of milk, but a lesser quantity. Certain plants, like turnips affect the taste of the milk. In general, milk does not vary much from breed to breed except for the content of fat (cream) and protein. In the early stages of lactation, the cow's milk contains colostrum for the benefit of her offspring. This milk is not marketed. B.S.T. is not used at the Canada Agriculture Museum nor on any dairy farms in Canada. B.S.T. (Bovine Somatotropin) is a controversial hormone used to increase milk production, and its use is illegal in Canada.
Calves, Cats and Expecting Cows:
Calves, cats and expecting cows are just some of the surprises that await you in the Dairy barn. Our maternity pens change occupants from week to week as new calves are born and expecting cows are watched for signs of labour. The first two days of milk are important to a calf: the first liquid secreted is called colostrum and it is rich in antibodies which build up a calf's immune system.
Cats can be found throughout this barn stalking mice, lazing on a bale of hay in the sun or sipping fresh milk put out by one of the herdsmen. Be careful which cat you choose to pet though — this is a working farm and our cats take their job seriously.
Veterinarian Dr. Glen Smith checks on the Canada Agriculture Museum dairy herd. Using his portable ultrasound machine, Dr. Smith can identify whether a cow is pregnant, and at what stage she is at in her gestation. Having cows at different stages of gestation ensures that milk production remains consistent throughout the year.