guernsey_cowGuernsey Cow

Bos taurus taurus guernsey

Description

Dairy cows are noted for their angular bodies. They have a bony-looking appearance because the great majority of the energy they gain from their food goes towards milk production, meaning that little fat stays on their bodies. Guernsey cows are usually light brown in color with clearly defined white markings.

Size

Mature Guernseys weigh approximately 1150 pounds.

Adaptations

  • Cattle are ruminants, or animals with four stomachs. They begin the digestive process by chewing their food just a small amount. This partially chewed food is swallowed and enters the first stomach (rumen). After cattle finish eating, they regurgitate the food back into the mouth where it is more thoroughly chewed. This is called “chewing the cud”. The food then passes through the remaining three stomachs for complete digestion.

Diet

A cow’s diet consists of high quality grain and hay. Dairy cows are typically fed much more than beef cows due to the high amounts of energy that they need to produce milk.

Reproduction

The dairy cow has a gestation of 9 months. Newborn calves nurse once from their mother to receive the necessary colostrum (first milk) for good health. They are then removed to calf raising quarters. After calving, cows are usually milked for 305 days and then allowed to “dry up” for 60 days to prepare for their next calf.

Shelter and Space Needs

Cattle have a reasonably high tolerance for cold weather, although they do need to be provided with shelter from extreme conditions. The Guernsey Dairy Cow at Cosley Zoo has a stall inside the barn where she spends the night and an outdoor yard that she shares with our beef cow during the day.

Life Expectancy

Cattle have the potential to live 10-12 years.

Importance to Man

A Guernsey will produce an average of 10,000 gallons of milk a year. The milk is very high in butterfat and can be used to manufacture butter, cheese, and ice cream. Because of milk’s composition, it is an easily digestible source of high quality protein, minerals and vitamins.

Fun Facts

  • The milking machine was invented in 1894. Before its existence, farmers could milk about 6 cows per hour. Now with milking machines, they can milk 100 cows per hour!
  • In an average day, a dairy cow will drink the equivalent of a bathtub full of water.
  • Cows spend up to 8 hours a day chewing their cud!