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Milk: How Does it Get to Your Refrigerator

While many people enjoy drinking a glass of milk with their favorite cookies or in a bowl of cereal, may never consider what goes into producing that milk the first place. You may be surprised to know that a cow must have a calf in order to start producing milk and the average age for a cow to have her first calf is two-years-old. The calf is then fed milk until it is about 8 or 9 years old, after which it is weened from its mother and then the milk is gathered from the cow for human consumption.

Prior to the invention of milking machines, farmers were only able to milk about six cows per hour and by hand. After the milking machine was invented in 1894, this process was sped up considerably. Today, farmers can use these machines to milk more than 100 cows per hour. The most productive cows can produce more than 25 gallons in a single day. This is equivalent to 400 glasses of milk!

Altogether, dairy cows are responsible for producing about 90 percent of the world’s milk supply. Cows in the United States produce an average of 2,000 gallons of milk per cow each year, which is equivalent to about 30,000 glasses of milk. In order to produce this much milk, dairy cows drink about one bathtub full of water each day and eat around 40 pounds of food per day.

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