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It takes long days and hard work to run a dairy farm. When the result is happy cows and quality milk, it’s all worth it.
Running a dairy farm isn’t for the faint of heart. Farmers are committed to the well-being of their herd, and to the quality of the milk they produce. For most Ontario dairy farmers, it’s more than a family effort. It’s a family tradition that goes back generations.
Most people picture a Holstein when they think of a dairy cow. While they're certainly the most common, they are just one of seven major dairy cattle breeds producing milk on Ontario dairy farms.
The Ayrshire breed hails from Scotland and is a hardy breed well suited to harsh climates. They're prized for their strength and longevity.
Originally from Britain's Channel Islands, Guernseys produce a rich milk that contains higher than average beta carotene, omega 3, calcium and A2 protein compared to most other cows' milk.
The Holstein averages a whopping 10,753 kg of milk per cow per year. This has made it a popular choice for dairy farmers, and it makes up 94% of the province's dairy cattle herd.
Originating on the Island of Jersey, one of the British Channel Islands, Jersey cattle are the second most common breed on Ontario dairy farms. They produce the highest levels of butterfat in their milk.
Switzerland's Brown Swiss may have been bred by Benedictine monks as long as 1,000 years ago. These animals are docile and live long lives, producing high levels of protein in their milk – making it particularly well suited to cheese production.
The Milking Shorthorn is noted for its longevity and resistance to disease. They are known for a quiet temperament, and their ability to calve with little assistance.
As the name suggests, the Canadienne originated in Canada. These animals are known for their quiet nature and their hardiness in the face of harsh climates.
Dairy cattle need care and attention to stay healthy, happy and productive. Here's a quick peek into an average day on the farm.
You'll need to get up early to keep up with a dairy farmer. It's not unusual for them to be up feeding and milking their cows before the sun rises.
Providing a well-balanced diet is an important part of maintaining a healthy herd. Dairy cows are fed a mixture of forage (pasture, silage or dry hay), barley, corn or soy grains, plus vitamins and mineral supplements.
Cows are milked twice daily, on average. It takes about six minutes to milk a cow.
Like any living creature, even with the best care a cow may get sick once in a while. Ontario dairy farms are required to work with a veterinarian to help ensure their herd gets proper care at all times.
Ontario milk is tested to ensure it contains no trace of antibiotics, in accordance with Canada's strict dairy regulations. If a cow is treated with antibiotics, her milk is discarded for a regulated period of time to ensure the medicine has completely cleared her system.
Barns are designed with safety and comfort in mind. Stalls and bedding help keep cows warm and dry.
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