21 Dairy Industry Facts: All About Dairy Farming Simplified For Kids

Oluniyi Akande
Oct 05, 2023 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Dec 22, 2021
Dairy items like curd were being consumed
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.0 Min

Dairy production across the globe has increased by around 59% in the last 30 years.

Milk in their breakfast cereal or butter in their toast, most people start their day with some dairy product in their meal. But what happens before the milk from cattle reaches you?

Agriculture is not new to us, neither is the concept of the consumption of milk. But more advanced concepts like pasteurization and the product of commercial dairy products are all pretty recent.

This is one of the few agricultural commodities that are locally available almost in all parts of the world. Most countries have their dairy farms and can produce milk to meet the demands of their citizens.

This industry is good for streamlining dairy farming activities and delivering milk and dairy products to the consumer market. In fact, millions of households in different countries focus on dairy farming as their main occupation.

The US dairy industry alone accounts for nearly $1918 million of milk on a monthly basis. In fact, as of 2020, the net worth of the global industry was $827.4 billion.

So, are you curious to find out more about this versatile beverage that is also known for its many health benefits? Enlighten yourselves with the workings of the dairy farming industry.

You might also come across the dark side of this proliferating industry. Then, it's quite possible that consuming dairy products will not be the same any more.

Once you find out all you wanted to know about the dairy industry, do check out other interesting articles on coffee industry facts and fashion industry facts.

The History Of The Dairy Industry

Dairy items like curd were being consumed way back in 1700 BC.

This proves that human beings have been using milk in its varied forms since times immemorial. Now, you might be intrigued to know about the history of this white liquid.

While preparing dairy items like curd from cow's milk or any other milk source that might be popular in various countries, commercialization of the dairy farm concept is a pretty recent one.

While the domestication of cows became a reality around 12000 BC, it is only in the recent past that dairy farmers have emerged with exclusive cattle-only dairy farms for milk. Commercial factory farms overlook a majority of the milk requirements around the world.

Before modern milk production became popular there were hardly any machines involved in the whole process. Hand milking of the dairy cows followed by the distribution of this milk to the nearby consumers was commonplace.

Most of the dairy farmers focused on towns and urban settings where having cattle was inconvenient. We all know that cows grazing in natural meadows regularly can provide healthy milk output. Such large green expanses are usually unavailable in big cities.

Today, the US dairy industry has grown in leaps and bounds from what it was about a century ago. You will find automated milking machines in most of these factory farms.

There are machines available now for milking the cows, bottling the collected milk, and then taking them to the warehouse for distribution. The use of machines in these factories helps in the faster output of milk. Mechanization of factories helps keep up with the growing dairy demands.

Characteristics Of The Dairy Industry

Not all dairy farms follow healthy practices to keep the animals in optimal conditions. Most dairy factories rely on artificial insemination for impregnating the cows. Some of these cows are impregnated more frequently than recommended.

Just like humans even in animals, the babies should not be separated from their mothers too soon. But this happens in several commercial farms in the US dairy industry. As a result, it produces a lot of stress on the mothers as well as their calves.

The female calves that the dairy cows give birth to are separated from the mothers and raised for future milk production. This then becomes a vicious constant cycle. On the other hand, the male calves are separated from the mother and are sent for slaughter.

At the slaughterhouse, these calves are sold in the slaughter market mainly for meat. It is mostly used for the production of ground beef.

This is the kind of beef that is mostly used in burgers and other fast food. In cases where the dairy farm animals cannot yield the expected amount of milk anymore, they are utilized for beef. Once the yield from the cow stops it is sent to meat processing units.

The processes followed by these factories have a strong role to play in how these businesses affect the environment. Cows raised in large herds might also result in a tremendous amount of waste in the form of excrement.

Depending on the waste treatment processes the factory adopts, it can also lead to water pollution in the nearby areas. This has become an area of concern in some places.

Main Animal In The Dairy Industry

Dairy cows are the main animals in the dairy industry. These are different from commercial cattle raised for food. Only female cows are raised in large indoor farm setups. These genetically modified cows yield higher amounts than conventional dairy cows.

Besides cattle, buffaloes, sheep, and goats are also raised for dairy. The US dairy industry relies mainly on cows but depending on the natural climate and the terrains where the dairy industry is established, the kind of animals raised would vary. It also depends on the requirements in the area and the demand for specific types of milk.

The proportion of milk coming from cows and other animals varies outside the US dairy landscape. In several developing countries, milk from buffalos is nearly as popular as cow’s milk.

The consumption of cow’s meat is also not common in some countries. As a result, the dairy farm setups and dairy production processes might be slightly different outside the US dairy industry.

Agriculture is not new to us

Dairy Industry Working In Simple language

There is a constant debate on the ethics of milk consumption. Knowing about the workings of the US dairy industry and the factory farms can help you decide better.

There was a time when cows were raised in small numbers by farmers in large open spaces. Cows were given organic feed and were nurtured in optimal conditions.

Pregnant cows were given special attention. They were given a nutritious diet to keep them healthy throughout pregnancy and lactation periods. The calf was also not separated from its mother immediately after birth.

Calves were allowed to nurse from the mother cows for at least three months. Farmers milked the cows only after the calves' nutritional requirements were satiated. This practice was good for the health of the cow and the calf as well.

The milk that was taken from the cow was later used to produce several products like cheese. But today, things have changed.

Cows in commercial farms in the US are raised in small spaces. These cows are not allowed to graze in fields like traditional farming practices.

They are also not fed vegetables and other organic feed most of the time. Many of them are fed grains and nutritious fodder. Based on the environment where the cow is raised and the kind of feed it is given, the calcium content and other nutritional values of the milk differ.

Across the world, there are several breeds of cows that are bred mainly for milk production. However, the males are slaughtered after birth.

These cows spend their lives in confined spaces of the factories. To increase sales, they are made to produce more milk than what an average cow raised in an organic farm would produce in its life. Genetic manipulations of different types along with repeated artificial inseminations often take a toll on the cow’s health.

To tackle infections these cows are also given hormonal injections. There is no regard, respect, or dignity given to the life of these innocent animals!

Most dairy farms today find it difficult to nurture bulls. As a result, artificial insemination is the primary method to impregnate dairy cows in US dairy farms.

As a result, cows are constantly in their lactation phase and calves are separated from them at birth. The only nutrition that the calves get naturally would probably be inside the pregnant mother’s womb.

Some cows are given hormonal injections in order to maintain fertility and milk production. Some of these vaccines are also to ensure the good health of the cow and prevent infections.

As a result of repeated pregnancies, the health of cows in these commercial dairy farms deteriorates too soon. Most of these cows are considered to be 'spent' in a time period of three to five years.

This is the duration for which they can continue to produce milk and give birth to calves. They are then replaced by the female calves they gave birth to.

The cows are then slaughtered for meat. Such aggressive farming methods are known to drastically affect the life span of these cows' commercial farm setup.

If you wish to eat safe and healthy dairy products that are also safe for the environment, then you should be consuming milk sourced from an organic dairy farm. At such places, cows are nurtured with enough space to graze during the day and rest when they want to.

The health of the cow is of prime importance.

These cows do not get pregnant too often and they do not give birth as frequently as the commercial dairy farm cows.

This is also the place where the cow’s food is closely monitored and as a result the calcium content in the milk from these cows as well as the nutritional benefits of dairy products from them, like cheese, would be good for humans.

Babies are allowed to nurse and this, in turn, increases the milk production in these cows, naturally.

Other than differences in milking the cow and nurturing them, there could also be differences in how the milk is treated. Natural milk is a perishable product with short shelf life and requires stringent storage conditions to keep it fresh.

The US dairy industry, therefore, relies on factories where the milk is processed. Pasteurization is one of the most popular processing methods. This is a technique where the milk is subjected to special processes that eliminate pathogens and reduce the chances of infection.

Today's industry is not growing at the same pace as in the past and milk alternatives are slowly becoming more popular. Inhumane treatment of cattle in some commercial dairy farms is one main reason for this.

However, organic dairy farms that take proper care of these animals are still keeping this industry alive and delivering milk in a humane and safe way.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 21 dairy industry facts: all about dairy farming simplified for kids then why not take a look at where do pickles come from?

Food facts about tangy tasting pickles! or where do peppercorns come from? fabulous ancient spice facts to know!

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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