The Zoo in the Cow

Since the introduction of genomics the pursuit of higher numbers has been relentless. The need for higher numbers contradicts the common-sense of the dairy farmers more and more frequently. For years already, farmers are wondering if what they see on paper has any connection with the cows needed in their barn. The acceleration of breeding is going so quickly that problems are beginning to accumulate in the cow. In the pursuit of high numbers, the cow is turning into a zoo.

the zoo in the cow

The Fish Walk

For years I have observed cows that walk like a fish: The rear end goes from left to right, because the cow needs to walk around her udder. This is not very efficient and is definitely not good for the longevity of the cow. The front end of the cow is too narrow which causes her to move like a fish tail, whereas we would like to see straight, forward-walking cows.

The Cat Back

The cat back

The narrowness of a cow has been promoted as the way forward. Cows are becoming so narrow that they are beginning to resemble a cat’s back. As we all know when a cat arches her back, she is on high alert and tense. Nowadays you see cows with a cat’s back, there is a lot of tension in their body. At the same time you see very straight rear legs which the cow puts behind her body. This is not good and certainly not comfortable for the cow.

The Giraffe Grazer

The narrowness breeding has caused the cow to become taller and taller. In the pasture you can see them eat like a giraffe with the front legs spread in order to reach the grass. Again, not cow-like or good for anyone.

The Deer Head

Furthermore, the cow is getting more deer-like in the head; It becomes narrower further to the front. This is not taking into account the teeth in the mouth of the cow.

The Duck Feet

This narrow front end causes the cow’s front legs to stand like those of a duck: Toes facing out!

The Pig Digestive System

The strive for feed efficient cows makes it so that the cow must quickly digest high energy diets. For that to happen, something has to change–The core value of the cow!  The cow is a ruminant and she was designed to digest uneatable proteins and turn it into high value proteins. The modern push for “feed efficiency” is turning the cow into a monogastric animal – into a pig with tall legs. We are turning our cows into pigs just for feed efficiency, whereby higher energy diets have to be provided in order to make them produce. Ruminants are foregut fermenters while monogastric herbivores are hindgut fermenters. The digestive system of ruminants is more efficient than the monogastric system in breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. But since they started to weigh the food intake, they trained the cow in becoming a pig with one little minus–The pig has a much larger udder than the cow.

Let the Cow be a Cow

Turning the cow into a zoo is not doing the cow nor the farmer nor the world a favor. A well-built cow should be able to walk straight and eat grass from the pasture (not high feeding bins to weigh their feed intake). The cow must have a rumen because she is a foregut fermenter. If they want to turn her into a pig, maybe they should just start milking actual pigs. But please, let’s not deform and cripple the cow! The progress which has been made in breeding has been tremendous and that is a great compliment to all who have contributed to this achievement. Let’s not go the wrong way and continue to see the cow as she is and breed her to be a ruminant!

Geertje 669 V: Big Malki
Well balanced cow Geertje 669 (V: Big Malki)

The cow converts indigestible proteins for humans into valuable protein for human consumption. The manner in which the cow does that is mainly based on her unique ability to foregut fermenting the fiber and celluloses that she eats. One of the main activities of a cow during a day is ruminating the feed. The cow chews the cud multiple times in order to ferment this indigestible feed and turn it into milk which can help feed the world’s population. People must value the qualities of the cow and not try to remake the cow into a zoo.