One hundred years ago, farms only had two or three dairy cows, which produced just enough to feed their families. The cows were milked by hand twice a day. The milk went into pails and was taken to the house to be used.
A settler is hand-milking a dairy cow.
Fifty years ago, dairy farmers had 20 to 30 cows. The cows were milked into pails, then poured into milk cans, and sent to the processing plant. Today, the average dairy cow gives 30 litres of milk per day, which is 126 glasses of milk.
Saskatchewan is home to 185 dairy farms! There are approximately 29,000 dairy cows and 15,000 heifers in Saskatchewan. Canada is home to almost 3,000 dairy farms.
Dairy producers in Saskatchewan sell nearly 210 million litres of milk per year. When dairy farmers sell their milk products, they work with the Milk Control Board and align quotas to consumers and businesses looking to make products such as cheese, ice cream, and other delicious food items from the milk.
Saskatchewan has 185 dairy farms which are home for around 29,000 dairy cows and 15,000 heifers!
You can find many dairy products at local grocery stores. Although you cannot tell exactly which products came from Saskatchewan, if you see the ‘blue cow’ on the product then you’ll know that it was a Canadian Dairy Farm that contributed to the product!
Look for these logos which mean that the product is made using Canadian milk:
Who is Who?
The happier a cow is, the more milk it will produce. Cows can roam freely around the barn. Barns are kept clean and sanitized to try to keep out diseases and parasites. Vaccines are given to the cows to prevent diseases. Dairy cows wear a pedometer to track their steps. If that cow takes less steps than usual, the farmer can tell the cow is sick.
The happier a cow is, the more milk it will produce.
Cows are fed at least twice a day, once early in the morning when they are milked, and again in the late afternoon. Water is always available to the animals. Milking cows need more water than an animal that is not milking. Two litres of water are needed to produce one litre of milk.
Dairy cows eat at least twice a day.
Dairy farmers live and work on their farms every day, so it is important for them to protect the land, water, and air for their animals, families, surrounding communities, and future generations. The barns on dairy farms are full of modern technologies to make them efficient. Dairy farmers use manure as a fertilizer for the soil on their farms. They also maintain the temperature and ventilation in the barns to ensure the cows are happy and comfortable.
The conditions in the barn are maintained to ensure cows are comfortable.
When dairy cows give birth on a farm, the calf will stay with the mother for only a few hours, until the farmer makes sure both the cow and calf are healthy. The calves are fed colostrum, the first milk from their mother. The colostrum is very important for new born calves because it is rich with the antibodies that provide the calf protection from diseases in early life.
The first milk that dairy calves receive from their mothers is very healthy for their immune systems.
A newborn calf is housed in a hutch or in a calf barn. A hutch is a shelter that looks like a small shed, and a calf barn is a barn that houses calves only. The calves are healthiest if they are kept separate from each other for the first few months of life. Each calf has its own hutch with lots of straw to keep it warm and dry.
This dairy calf is standing in the calf barn.
This dairy calf is standing in a hutch.
Technology is very important on a dairy farm. Dairy farmers use a lot of technology to help keep the animals healthy. Every cow has a tag on their ear, which is put on them when they are babies and does not hurt them. The tag allows farmers to tell the cows apart and trace the animal’s history if needed.
This dairy cow as an ear tag that can track the history and other important data about this particular cow.
Some farms have robotic milkers. These allow the cows to milk themselves whenever they want. They are given a treat while they are being milked. If they try to go in to milk too soon, the machine will send them another way. Other milking systems require the farmer to put the machine on the sanitized cow to start milking. The machine does the rest of the milking.
Dairy cows are being milked in this robotic milking system.
Farmers keep track of how much milk each cow gives. The cows wear a responder, which is like a necklace or bracelet, that keeps track of her name and number, if she has been milked, when and how many calves have been born, if the cow has been sick and treated, and how many steps she took.
Once these cows are milked, the milk goes through these lines to a milk tank.
Cows provide us with many products including milk, butter, cream, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and ice cream.
All types of milk contain 15 essential nutrients that are important to our bodies and are high in Vitamin D. The fat and sugar levels in milk change based on the type of milk (skim, 1%, 2%, homogenized, or chocolate milk).