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-   -   Can dairy cows die if they aren't milked? (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=302183)

WILLASS 02-13-2005 08:09 AM

Can dairy cows die if they aren't milked?
 
A colleague of mine recentley claimed that if you don't milk dairy cows they die. I immediatley pronounced this as 'bollocks' but after a few more people got involved in the dicussion doubt started to set in. Someone speculated that because they were bred specifically to be milked they may have some kind of genetic fault that means they can't stop producing milk, I still think it is rubbish but I can't find any proof online - any vets out there with the straightdope?

Elenfair 02-13-2005 09:13 AM

During *the* Icestorm, I lived in the Ottawa Valley. Farmers from the rural areas lost a lot of their stock - sheep, and dairy cows, mainly. Some areas had no power for almost a month and a few weeks. Large dairy farms had a lot of trouble since the cows could not be milked, and doing the job by hand was going to require a lot of help. Interestingly, some military personnel was dispatched to help out.

If memory serves. A cow that is not milked will suffer something fierce - and many were put down for that reason. I'm not sure if anything explodes (ha ha ha) if a cow is not milked... but maybe chique (who has grown up on a cattle farm) can answer that part of the question...

Elenfair 02-13-2005 09:17 AM

Aha! From the Miner institute (http://www.whminer.com/) , also hit by *the* icestorm ;)

Quote:

This newsletter is late because of the devastating ice storm that hit the North Country on January 7-8. Dairy herds were hard hit, especially on farms that weren’t able to get generators. Many cows died from lack of water, and from not being milked.
http://www.whminer.com/newsletter/1998/Jan98.htm

clairobscur 02-13-2005 09:22 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WILLASS
Someone speculated that because they were bred specifically to be milked they may have some kind of genetic fault that means they can't stop producing milk,


I don't think it's because they can't stop producing milk, but because they have been breeded to produce an abnormally huge volume of milk.

mangeorge 02-13-2005 10:15 AM

I don't know if it's still true, but dairy cows used to have to be bred, yearly I think, to keep producing milk. The result was "drop" calves, which could be bought cheap by individuals and hand-fed then raised for slaughter.
I'm sure it's done now with hormones (or the like) now.
Peace,
mangeorge

mangeorge 02-13-2005 10:21 AM

Drop calf.
 
Here's a totally non-biased explanation for ya'll. ;)

David Simmons 02-13-2005 10:45 AM

Just a quick note about the English verb "to breed." The past tense and past participle of the verb is "bred" so your sentence should read ".... because they have been bred to produce..."

This is intended as an aid and not a criticism. I think your English is generally excellent.

clairobscur 02-13-2005 01:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by David Simmons
Just a quick note about the English verb "to breed." The past tense and past participle of the verb is "bred" so your sentence should read ".... because they have been bred to produce..."

This is intended as an aid and not a criticism. I think your English is generally excellent.


Thank you. I appreciate the correction (though I'm likely to forget it next time :( )

WILLASS 02-13-2005 04:38 PM

Sorry for appearing to desert my post (makes me sound like a cowardly soldier doesn't it?) but I posted at work and then came home to find my laptop had been taken by my girlfriend! Thanks for all the information guys - looks like I stand corrected, now do I take this into work and own up or just pretend it didn't happen?

Just kidding, of course I'll tell.

David Simmons 02-13-2005 05:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WILLASS
... own up or just pretend it didn't happen?

Act nonchalant and change the subject is the way I handle such situations.

Amberlei 02-13-2005 08:07 PM

I'm actually going to disagree here and state that the fact that a cow is not milked does not cause death. It causes quite a bit of discomfort, to be sure, but not death. Cows must be bred yearly in a process known as "freshening" or milk production will taper off and eventually cease entirely. http://www.vegansociety.com/html/ani.../dairy_cow.php
http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache...airy+cow&hl=en
Prior to calving, cows are "dried off" in a process wherein milking is ceased and the production of milk halts.
Quote:

It would appear that drying a cow off abruptly and dry treating all quarters gives the best results.
http://www.moomilk.com/archive/prod-22.htm

And as evidence that not milking a cow does not lead to death,
Quote:

Damages Inflicted on An-Najah National University and Their Implications...include....the loss of the ability of the cows to produce milk, since they had not been fed for an extended period of time. These cows had not been milked for 3 weeks but previously were capable of giving a total of 250 kg. daily.
http://www.najah.edu/english/reports/report13.htm

I'm going to hazard a guess that the deaths of the cattle in the blizzard may have resulted from frostbite or winter teat end lesions on their teats which allowed infections such as mastitis to set in. With regular milking, this damage would have been detected early on and it's standard practice to treat each cow with a teat-dip following each milking to prevent such infections. Death wouldn't occur as a result of either of these, but the cow's usefullness as a milk producer would be at an end and hence the afflicted cattle would probably be slaughtered.

Amberlei 02-13-2005 08:26 PM

And to correct my own post, it seems that if mastitis is caused by E. coli then death may indeed result.
Quote:

As opposed to previously described bacteria, the coliform do not attach to the ducts and alveoli in the udder, rather they multiply rapidly in the milk and produce toxins that are absorbed into the blood stream. As a result, coliform infections lead to acute clinical mastitis. The body temperature of the cow may rise above 40oC and the infected quarter will become swollen and sensitive to touch. The cow's defense mechanisms may eliminate the bacteria in the udder, but the toxins remain and the cow may die.
http://babcock.cals.wisc.edu/downloa...l/ch23.en.html

WILLASS 02-14-2005 01:19 PM

This is the reply to the email I cheekily fired off to the William H Miner Agricultural Research Institute:

Dear Will:

Your question was forwarded to me. Whether or not cows will die if they're not milked depends on two factors: How much they're milking at the time, and how fast milking ceases. If a cow is only producing 20 pounds per day or less per day, she can be "dried off" (caused to cease milk production) simply by stopping milking her. That happens to almost every cow every year, and is a normal part of the "have a calf--produce a lot of milk per day---milk less and less per day--dry off--have a calf" cycle that's a cow's life. Done right, there's no problem at all.

However, if a cow is producing much more than 20 pounds per day, stopping milking her in one fell swoop will cause severe udder stress including inflammation, and the more she's milking the greater the chance that this stress and the resulting infection could kill her. Unfortunately, we have first-hand experience about this in this region (45 miles south of Montreal) since a few years ago we had a devastating ice storm that killed electric power for several days. One farmer who couldn't get a generator lost a bunch of high producing cows when he wasn't able to milk them. (He had about 150 cows, and milking by hand was out of the question.)

So a short answer is yes--under some conditions.

Everett D. Thomas
William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute
P.O. Box 90
Chazy, NY 12921-0090
Phone 518-846-8020 Ext. 115. FAX 518-846-8445
thomas@whminer.com


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