Generally dairy cows:
- These are high-yield dairy breeds, such as the Prim’Holstein, which has resulted in a very significant increase in milk production in recent decades and at the same time, increased dependence on concentrates.
- Produce a very high volume of milk. While a nursing cow (raised for its meat) would naturally produce about 4 liters of milk a day, a dairy cow produces an average of 28 liters of milk a day over a 10-month period. During peak lactation, high-yielding dairy cows can produce up to 60 liters per day and up to 12,000 liters over their entire lactation.
- Can be derived from an intensive selection program for high milk production. This can lead to fertility problems, metabolic problems and health and well-being problems.
- Have a relatively short productive life expectancy. Dairy cows are usually culled (slaughtered) early, after their third lactation on average. In the natural state, a dairy cow can live up to 20 years.
- Can be reared in zero-grazing systems or with limited grazing access (eg. during the dry period, the period during which cows do not produce milk).
Generally dairy calves raised for their meat:
- They are of little value in the beef market because of their conformation and as such are often high for veal in generally intensive systems.
- Are usually males because the females are mainly used for the renewal of the dairy herd.
- Often do not get enough colostrum and thus have a weakened immune system, which does not allow them to resist infections and diseases adequately.