Monday, February 23, 2015 - For seventeen years, Vega, a Swedish cow, has produced an average of 25 kg (a little over 55 lbs) of milk every day of her life. That adds up to 156 tonnes (not quite 344,000 lbs) of milk. That lifetime production total is roughly 500% more than the average lifetime yield of a dairy cow in even the most productive countries. But Vega was no exception. Pictured is 938 Doll, another cow from the Arbelunda Sorgard farm on the island of Oland in Sweden. 938 Doll is in her 6th lactation and milking about 12000 kg (26,500 lbs) each year.
“There is no secret to what we have done,” says Kerstin Persson, owner at Arbelunda Sörgård. “I think we just understood very early the importance of animal health and welfare. They need to have a nice life and when they do, then we do too,” she says. Their holistic approach to providing a happy and healthy lifestyle for cow and calf alike has been the underpinning of their continued success.
Dairy Development Director at DeLaval, Charlotte Hallén Sandgren, opines, “When you work from a sustainability standpoint then extending the lifetime of the cow is an important aspect. It lets you do more with less and at the same time improves animal welfare for the cows in your herd, because there’s no point getting your cows older if you don’t take care of them. If you don’t meet their needs then you will have problems getting them older anyway. But if you treat them well, they will have a happier lifetime and produce more.”
With regard to profitability, DeLaval has calculated that a herd of 100 cows will earn an extra 12000 euros ($13,610.00) per year if an extra lactation cycle is added to every cow. The figure is based on lower costs due to less numbers of heifers being raised and higher milk yield from elderly cows.
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Comment: The milk production of the cows in this herd is spectacular. Even more astonishing is their longevity, especially when compared to dairy cattle in this country. The average dairy cow in the U.S. doesn’t even complete 2 lactations, much less 15 or even 6. Regarding their happy and healthy lifestyle, 50 % of American dairy cows calve with either an infectious or metabolic disease. It saddens me that, with all the resources available to dairymen, veterinarians and nutritionists, we can’t do better than that.