Dairy cattle are cattle cows bred for the ability to produce large quantities of milk, from which dairy products are made. Dairy cows generally are of the species Bos taurus.
Cows can only produce milk, once they have given birth to a calf. Dairy cows are inseminated once a year and after a pregnancy of approximately 40 weeks, the cow gives birth to a calf.
On an average UK dairy farm, a calf will be separated from the mother after 24 to 72 hours and raised separately for one of two purposes: female calves are mostly raised to be dairy cows while male calves are generally reared for meat production.
Female dairy cows will have their first calf roughly two years of age. After the birth, the cow will generally produce milk for ten months before they are given a period of rest of about two months before the next calf is born. The period when a cow produces milk is called a ‘lactation’, during which the average UK dairy cow of the Holstein Friesian breed produces 7900 litres of milk. Nowadays cows are kept for three to four of these lactation periods after which they are generally culled and their meat is processed. Dairy cows in the UK generally live to an age of about six years.