Cows Fact sheet
Like humans and other animals, cows can be clever, slow to learn, friendly, aggressive, curious, dull, confident or shy. Here are some facts about cows:
The average cow is two years old when she has her first calf. A young female cow is called a heifer.
Cows are ruminants, which are cud chewing mammals. Sheep and camels also are ruminants.
A cow chews her cud (regurgitated, partially digested food) for up to eight hours each day.
Dairy cows provide 90% of the world’s milk supply.
Cows have four digestive compartments: the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. This allows them to digest grain and grasses most effectively.
Cows have 32 teeth. When grazing on grass, cows don’t bite the grass. Rather, they curl their tongue around it.
Like humans, cows (cattle) form close friendships and choose to spend much their time with two to four preferred individuals. They also hold grudges for years and may dislike particular individuals.
Cows show their excitement when let out into a field after long periods confined indoors.
Cows like to sleep close to their families, and sleeping arrangements are determined by individuals’ rank in the social hierarchy.
Cows are devotional mothers and are known to walk for miles to find their calves.
Cows are extremely curious and inquisitive animals which will investigate everything.
Cows have almost 360 degree panoramic vision. This helps them to see predators coming from any direction.
Cows have an excellent sense of smell. They can detect odours up to five miles away. They can also hear both low and high frequency sounds beyond human capability.
Cows are herbivores that eat vegetation such as grass.
Cows are sacred in India. There are an estimated 300 million cows in India.
Young cattle are generally known as calves.
Adult females are generally called cows.
Adult males that are not castrated are generally called bulls.
Cows are farmed for a number of agricultural products including meat and dairy products.
Meat from adult cattle is known as beef.
Meat from calves is known as veal.
Some important points to consider:
There are around 29 million cows in Australia. Most of these animals are raised to be killed for food. The rest live in a continual cycle of reimpregnation and milking until they are killed. While naturally a cow can live up to 20 years, even dairy cows rarely live beyond the age of seven.
As calves, most cattle (including dairy cows) suffer painful surgical procedures without pain relief, such as branding, disbudding (where their sensitive horn tissue is scraped out of their skulls with a knife or scooping implement), dehorning, tail docking and males are castrated.
Feedlots are factory farms for cattle. Cattle may spend up to a year in these places before being slaughtered as ‘grain fed’ beef. These systems already make up 30 to 40% of Australia’s market, and this percentage is growing.
Every year around 9 million cattle are killed for meat in Australia. These animals are packed tightly into trucks, and can face many hours without food or water on the way to slaughter. At the slaughterhouse they have a three inch bolt shot into their skull, before having their throat slit and being hung up-side-down for their blood to drain from their body.
On dairy farms, a young female cow is impregnated at around two years of age. When her calf is born, he is taken away within 24 hours of birth and usually killed before he is even five days old. The mother is left grieving for her lost calf, while her milk is used to for human consumption. She is then reimpregnated six to nine weeks later, and this cycle continues until she can no longer produce enough milk to be considered a ‘profitable unit’. She is then killed.
For the dairy industry, calves are a ‘by-product’ of forcing the mother to produce milk. Every year around 700 thousand calves are killed as ‘waste-products’ from the dairy industry.
Leather is not just a by-product of the meat industry. Many animals are killed for the purpose of producing leather. Much of the leather sold in Australia comes from countries where there are no laws to protect animals from cruelty.