Tag Archives: Cow

Dairy Cows: They are among us

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Previously I wrote a blog post about the purpose of dairy cows and how some technology has impacted the production of milk. The production of milk is the sole purpose for dairy cows; with specific needs to get larger quantities and better quality of milk, research and technology is used to improve these needs. As progress continues to be made through different areas of research there is a consistent and constant improvement on past creations to aide milk production.

Holy Cow

Holy Cow. Source

Artificial Insemination; the ability to impregnate a cow without the needs for a bull to be present became a solution to mass breed a herd of cows to get a consistent and constant rotation of lactating cows. Artificial Insemination is a remarkable story of tireless workers, dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, to the replacement of fiction to facts and and application of thereof. When it comes to thinking of something and creating it much like in science-fiction, Artificial Insemination was a product of what was first thought of then became real. Artificial Insemination first thought about in 1678 by Leeuwenhoek became a reality in 1784 by Spallanzani. While Artificial Insemination was a solution of getting a cow pregnant quicker, along with analysis information about when the cow is in heat, this process was further improved upon with the process of ‘Sexed Semen’.

Sexed Semen is the process in differentiating between female and male semen. First successfully identified in 1981; though killed the sperm used. Continued research with dairy cows showed that female chromosomes in semen are heavier and have a positive charge compared to male semen. Below is an image that shows the process for which sexed semen is found.

Sexed semen is more expensive than regular bull semen and is known to have a lower conception rate. Research done by Hinde and Bradford shows that dairy cows who give birth to female calf naturally produce more milk compared to if they birthed a male calf. For a lactation cycle of 305 days birthing a female produces 223kg of extra milk. These advancements have increased the rate at which cows produce milk but have also altered the natural birthing gender of cows. Mentioned in the previous blog post the natural birthing gender rate is 47% female, Artificial Insemination increased that figure to around 60% and now with Sexed Semen the female birthing rate is around 90%. This drastic increase in female calves being birthed was the solution to get the most milk out of cows while still maintaining some ethical rights over them. Though the next question that technology is going to answer would be is “How can we get cows to lactate without the need for them to go through a pregnancy?”. However this has lead to ethical concerns for the dairy cows.

The future of technology impacts on the animals and its purpose. When there is no purpose for the animal and humans have no ethical concern for the well being of the animals then ethics are challenged. Presented in H.G. Wells’ ‘The Island of Doctor Moreau‘ is a 1896 science-fiction novel that deals with a ship wrecked man saved by a passing boat and placed on the island of Doctor Moreau who creates human like hybrid beings with animals. The ‘organic’ combination of human intelligence with the abilities of animals is a future that capitalizes on things humans can not do but also what animals can not do. To combine human intelligence with the body of any animal creates a new step in human and animal relationship. When creating an animal/human chimera that still possesses all of the abilities of both a human and a animal (though this would be the ideal scenario) brings forth all of the advantages and disadvantages. Technology inspired from animals is nothing new as we look at the abilities of animals and use some of them for ourselves.

The future of animals mixed with human technology is the general premise for my digital artifact; a board game. From a perspective of animals being combined with future technology to create a cyborg octopus that has the intelligence of man, machine and animal. Players must work together to defeat the Queen Octopus who has become giant from engaging with the natural land, artificial beings and human creations. When left in a natural environment without human interruption animals grow larger. Human curiosity impacted on the natural progress on animals and their behaviour. With challenging the natural order of animals and giving them the power of machines, humans selectively breed animals for specific needs. My board game from my perspective is the next step of human and technological involvement with animals. Unlike H.G Wells novel he did not deal with the mechanical aspects for what humans create just the organic material of human and animal. My board game utilizes the constant need for survival by engaging players with the need to better themselves through combining themselves with technology to further themselves, the game and reach salvation.

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The Purpose of a Dairy Cow is a Life to be Used

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Cows-in-field

A group of Dairy Cows. Source

Wherever we have technology there are humans who created it and change it, and wherever we have humans we have animals that are having technology used upon them for better and for worse. With an ongoing relationship between humans and animals, technology provides itself as a catalyst to further aide in the development of that relationship. Looking at the humble dairy cow and the technology that has changed the way we engage with them we can see both the positive and negative aspects that technology has created. The ethics involved around using technology throughout a cows’ life for its purpose in life.

Starting with the birth of baby cows; calves. We are greeted with the way in which the mother is kept and looked after. As the need to create more and more food to look after more and more people research has found that utilizing the proper housing space for your animals is beneficial to the longevity of your animals and for producing more milk. From the time of just having an open field with cows roaming, barns have been built to house cows with soft mattresses, sand beds or water beds for them to sleep on. This change of behaviour from people towards their cows is a simple matter of thinking about the care of the cow. This answered the question about what would make a cow comfortable to produce more milk with barns and mattresses among other things were the solution. This aided in the cows producing more milk but is a small scale of growth in getting results as more has been done.

The building of the barn also benefited in the birthing of calves. As with any creature that gives birth there can be complications – cows are no exception. Technology has aided in finding out signs in knowing how far along a cow is along it its production cycle and being able to identify signs that show birth is close. Those signs being change in body temperature, respiration and heart rates, enlargement of the vulva and udder changes among other things. These signs provide a guideline for when the birth may occur but the time can still change so much and the handlers would not be ready. Research conducted by R. G. Mortimer proves that the difficulty a cow faces when birthing can be detrimental to the purpose of the cow in the long run. A milking cow that faces trauma from giving birth can subsequently end up producing less milk and have difficulties getting pregnant again. Cameras and sensors have been used as a simple solution to dealing with surprise time-of-day births. As human involvement as well as technology is the solution for this crisis.

For cows that live the life of being on a dairy farm they are only useful if they produce large quantities of milk as over the years a greater demand for milk has occurred. Dairy Australia has found that over the past 30 years milk production has nearly doubled – 5,432 million litres in the 1979/80 to 9,539 million litres in 2015/16. Further research showed they produce larger quantities of milk when that have gone through the pregnancy cycle. It is now in the farmer’s best interest to get their cows pregnant as quickly as possible, having one calf after another. Technology plays a part in finding the right times of a cows’ life that “forced” pregnancy would be ideal to occur and to close the window from subsequent births. Software called AfiFarm is the most comprehensive management software that can be tailored to the farmers needs that creates an efficient way to get the most out of dairy cows. Being able to analyse weight, milk conductivity, pedometers, and the milk the cow is producing for fat:protein ratio. Problems such as illnesses and natural defects can be found and solved before they get serious and affect the milk yield from the cow. As the purpose of these dairy cows is to produce milk, if they lose their purpose then they are killed. The average life span of a dairy cow is seen to be around 20 years, however with the forced involvement of humans and technology a lot of dairy cows barely make it past 7 years old.


Looking at how often dairy cows need to be pregnant and how many calves need to be born not for the purpose of being a part of the herd but for the purpose of having the mother gestate for milk. Technology has been used in a darker, less compassionate way. These little calves that are born with no purpose and in a majority of cases are killed, or sold overseas then killed. The main purpose if not killed as soon as being born is to be crated in a small 22 inch by 54 inch for 5 to 14 weeks then killed for veal. Male dairy calves serve no purpose for producing milk or being a beef cow as the breed of cows are different, so every male calf is sent away and killed. Not every female calf escapes this fate either as the only need for a female calf is to replace a member of the herd. The Department of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin reports that the gender ratio of dairy cow’s calves is Male 53.3% to Female 46.7%. Taken from their mothers within 12 – 24 hours (sometimes immediately), the mothers will never see their calf again. In Australia, it has been estimated that 400,000 calves each year serve no purpose – not wanted for replacement of the herd or wanted for veal. These calves are considered as “waste products” and are destroyed within 5 – 6 days of being born.

In cases where the farmer sees the benefit in getting a pregnant cow that is close to giving birth back into the milking herd. They will call a veterinarian to induce the cow into giving birth sooner than expected, seen to be at least 3 weeks premature. In most cases the premature calf is too weak and killed instantly on the farm by the farmer. While the mother is sent back through the milking station as that is the purpose of her. The purpose that dairy cows have is straight forward, but the technology used on them as people change with technology continues to affect the animals that humans use. When there are animals that no longer serve a purpose then what happens to them is simply death. When animals serve a purpose then they are cared for and looked after as much as possible to maintain that purpose.

Solutions have been talked about in providing a more stable environment for dairy cows and their calves. Looking at having cows that are useful for both milk and beef production like the Holstein breed of cow in the pictures above is useful for multiple purposes. Farmers have also initiated an understanding of limiting the amount of milk a cow will give each day so there is always enough to raise a healthy calf. The dairy cow is quintessential to the cow milk industry so being looked after and cared for is a priority, though as technology develops and demand has been increased then there is the difficult solution of putting which priority over another.

Animal Rights are Human Creations

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Animal Rights? A simple understanding about the fair treatment and preservation of animals. Decided by looking at the livelihood of current day animals much like chickens and pigs and justifying that the way they live is no condition for what they deserve. That word, ‘deserve’, defined by Oxford as “Do something or have or show qualities worthy of”. Does every animal deserve the fair treatment of comfort? What are the standards in which animal farms need to be in line with in order for people to feel that animal rights are fulfilled? Are animals that are bred for the sole purpose of food worthy of being taken care or in a human manner.

Everywhere there are people, there are animals to serve a purpose. In our households, we have dogs, cats, birds and reptiles (among a few) as pets. Humans affinity for animals is both a simple and tricky thing. With the animals, we have as pets we see them as a part of the family, a companion, someone who we keep in high regard, this emotional attachment that we have to our pets is the result of a connection we have created with them. The same connection (to some degree) we would make for other people – family, friends and colleagues. This relation is placing human like characteristics and abilities on our animals. Described as Anthropomorphism – the attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a god, animal, or object. For dogs, they react to our emotions, as do ours to them. We sympathize with what our pets go through because to us they are only a part of our life but we are the entirety of theirs. Our choice is to look after them, so we do.

Unlike the relationship of having a pet there are animals that we use for food. We breed them on farms so that we can keep up to the demand of consumption – chickens for eggs and meat for example. Long has there been videos showing that the condition where chickens have been raised for both laying eggs and for their meat are in horrible/uncomfortable conditions. Which can be seen in the video below.

By what standard should we give chickens the freedom to live a healthy life. While we describe human characteristics for our pets we change the emotional connection to one of well-being and disgust. The connection we have for animals is the driving force behind the fight for animal rights. Though, that is conflicted when it comes to human survival as there is an obvious hierarchy of who needs to be looked after first. People have to eat, people eat chicken, there is a large demand for chicken so farmers need to increase demand. Chicken farms need to increase their supplies to meet those demands. Prices for the meat fluctuates based on that supply. Does that money go back into the farms to care for the chickens or does it go back into the farmers pockets for other purposes? Their livelihood is their farm, which is their chickens so it can be perceived it would be beneficial that it would go back into the farm.

fight for animal rights

Fight for Animal Rights. Source

When we give animals the voice of humanity you turn the intention of what the animal represents. A dog is no longer just a pet; a pig is no longer just bacon and a chicken is no longer just an egg laying machine. Giving the voiceless a voice, determining that there are specifics in the way these animals needs to be treated and cared for needs to be understood. We look at the problems that are around us, such as the overcrowded breeding farms and say “this is wrong”, but our solutions are not a guaranteed fix nor are the implementations of those solutions continually looks after. Much like the standard for free range eggs, there are standards that need to be followed to meet the “free range” label though many farms are not adhering to those rules.