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Dairy cows
Dairy breeds – cows raised to produce milk – are leaner with less muscling than beef breeds, as they put their energy into making milk. The six most common dairy breeds in Canada are Holstein, Jersey, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, and Milking Shorthorn. Holsteins are the most popular milking cows in Canada, and are easily recognizable by their black and white coats.
Jersey and Holstein dairy cows in a tie-stall barn.
• Free-stall structures feature more open housing, where cows move around freely, and go to a central milking area two or three times a day to be milked. To keep the cows comfortable, many farmers have added large fans, backscratching stations and automated feed movers to ensure that cows always have access to feed.
• Tie-stall barns have an individual stall for each cow, with bedding and free access to food and water. The cows are milked by machines in their stalls. Milk  ows through a pipeline in the barn directly into a milk tank.
• More and more farmers are using robots to help with milking. These barns resemble free-stall barns, except that the cows go any time at will to a station where they are milked and fed automatically. The station or “robot” tracks how many times a day each cow has been milked, and how much feed it has eaten.
No matter the barn system used, dairy cows have continuous access to food and fresh water. Some dairy farmers will pasture their
Canadian dairy cows live in one of three types of barns:
Tim May
The average dairy cow produces 8,830 litres of milk each year. 19
cows in spring, summer, and fall. When it rains or is too hot, though, cows generally prefer the comfort of a cool, well-
ventilated barn.
A cow being milked in a milking parlour.
12 The Real Dirt on Farming
Calf hutches
Have you ever driven past a farm and noticed calves living in what look like little igloos? These structures are called “hutches,” and they allow farmers to individually monitor and care for calves when they are young, and their immune systems are not fully developed. Hutches also keep calves comfortable and protected, with farmers providing extra milk, feed, and bedding in cold weather. As the calves grow to become older and stronger, they move from the hutches to live in groups with other calves. Once they are old enough, these calves become members of the farm’s milking herd.

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