A cow's life

Cows are valuable farm animals for Valio dairy farms. Cows are worth taking good care of, since a healthy cow that receives the nutrition and care it needs produces high-quality milk.

A year in the life of a cow

Cows start producing milk only after the birth of their first calf and calving marks the beginning of a cow's year. For a week after calving, cows produce colostrum, which is considerably richer than normal milk and aims to protect the newborn calf.

Cows produce 30–60 kilos of milk a day. The volume of milk is at its highest about a month after calving and the period of high milk volume continues from three to five months. Approximately three months after calving, the cow is inseminated again, after which its daily milk production gradually decreases, until its milking is stopped two months before the birth of the new calf.

Cows are milked two or three times a day. If the cowshed has an automatic milking system, the cows can go and be milked whenever they choose to.

The gregarious inhabitants of cowsheds

Cows are gregarious animals and herds typically have internal hierarchies as well. The cows on the lowest ladder of the hierarchy may be knocked about by those higher up the ladder and nutrition may also be distributed unequally within the herd. Squabbles are particularly common among cows in free-range areas. Cows' horns are sharp, and an animal that weighs five hundred kilos may hurt not only people, but also its fellow creatures. Disbudding – or the removal of horns– therefore aims to increase the safety of both cows and the people who care for them.

Stanchion barn =
The cows are in their own places tied to a stable, where the cows are also fed and milked. The stanchion must have enough room for movement and resting in a prone position.

Free-range area =
The cows are able to range freely and visit fodder kiosks when they please. At farms equipped with automatic milking systems, cows can also be milked whenever they want to. Some free-range areas include a possibility for outdoor exercise.

Disbudding, i.e. the removal of horns

Disbudding – or the removal of horns– aims to increase the safety of both cows and the people who care for them. Disbudding is carried out by cauterising the horn buds of a two-week-old calf so that they stop growing. The procedure is painful, which is why it should be carried out in cooperation with a veterinarian, so that sedation and pain relief can be administered appropriately.

What do cows eat?

The quality of fodder is an important factor since, in addition to the cow's health, it has an effect on the quality of milk. Cows eat mostly grass. Some of it is fed as freshly cut fodder, but most of it consists of silage grass, in addition to which cows are provided with complementary feed, which contains protein as well as minerals and micronutrients. The protein source is usually rapeseed, which has been found to be a better source of protein than soy, the use of which is widespread around the world.

For pure food

The use of fodder that has not been genetically modified is one of the principles guiding Valio's milk production. Valio obligates farms to purchase their bought fodder from companies named in the Animal Health (ETT) association's positive list of animal feed companies. For the past three years, Valio has required the animal feed companies on the positive list to provide annual confirmation that their dairy cattle feed does not contain genetically modified raw materials.

A cow vocabulary