Are cows constantly producing milk?

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I just drove past a field of cows and there were babies too. The calfs we’re so cute! But it got me thinking… When cows make milk it usually goes to their babies, right? So how is it that we have constant stores of milk and cheese at the supermarket? Do we only get milk from cows who’s calfs didn’t make it (passed away)? Or is it that cows always have milk so it’s no big deal if we take it instead of it going to a calf? Need some dairy farmers to help me out with this one please!

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Veterinary technician here. Short answer: No they do not. Long answer. When a cow gets a calf she produces milk. The more they milk her the longer she sill produce milk as her body thinks its feeding a calf. The production of milk slowly reduces over time and farms need to calculate this in order to be profitable. Once it is not profitable anymore they stop and wait until she recovers and is ready for another calf.

No they don’t. Milk cows have to regularly calve to continue giving milk.

And the thing is, those calves, if they aren’t female and can be used for milk cows, will eventually be slaughtered for meat. Which is why many vegans consider cow milk to be as bad as eating cow meat itself.

They take dairy calves away from the mothers and bottle-feed them (or sell them for veal). The milking makes her body think the calf is nursing, a lot, and so she keeps producing milk steadily, usually for about a year. Then she has to have another calf to keep the milk supply going.

If you have a small homestead and don’t need a lot of milk from your cow, you can let her keep her calf and still milk her, and that will be enough milk for most homesteaders. But it’s not profitable for large dairies.

If you saw the calves with their mothers, those are likely beef calves. They used to remove the calves at a certain age to force weaning, so the mother could back get in shape for her next pregnancy, but trial and error showed that caused more losses than it prevented so most beef calves stay in the pasture with their mother until they’re old enough to go to a feedlot.

Like people, cows only lactate when they have babies. The cows are artificially inseminated, typically by locking them in a cage and jabbing them in the cervix with a metal rod while the farmer’s arm is inserted into the cow’s rectum.

When the cow gives birth, the farmer takes away her calf to prevent it from drinking the milk.

You’re right – the only animals that produce milk are mothers. But generally, in mass producing dairy farms, the cows don’t get pregnant naturally. The mothers get artificially inseminated, get pregnant, give birth to their young, the young are stolen from her and reared for beef or dairy or killed if no use, leaving her in a continual state of distress and grief, usually chained to bars and pumped for milk before the artificial insemination process starts again so she can produce more milk. The reason for the abundance of dairy products is because of this wide-scale non-surrendering abuse. Dairy farmers on a smaller scale may proclaim she’s in a more habitable environment and any other line to make you feel it’s more ethical, but the cows mostly all end up the same way… and in any case, 100% of the produce you get from shops and supermarkets that you refer to are attained from the mass-producing dairy farms.
If you want further information “Earthling Ed” is a great educator on YouTube.