Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Did You Know: How much milk a dairy cow produces?

If you do, kudos to you! I was asked how much milk a dairy cow produces each day during my classroom visits last week. Not to leave them with my immediate answer of, "Um...well...a lot..." I did some research so I could send them a more definite answer.
Here's some of what I learned through Purdue's website, and Ag Mags for Kids (which I now cannot find online)

The average dairy cow produces around 6.5 gallons of milk a day. A gallon of milk weights 8.6 pounds, so that's 55.9 pounds of milk each day. Holy cow!

The record holding cow produced an astounding 52, 298 pounds (almost 7,000 gallons) of milk in one year. Holy cow again!

The most popular dairy breed in American is the Holstein.

It takes about 350 squirts to get a gallon of milk from a cow, and most cows are milked twice a day.

It takes 3 gallons of milk to make 1 gallon of ice cream, and 30 cups of milk to make one pound of butter.

All this massive production doesn't come without some serious feed being provided for these dairy cows. The average dairy cow weighs 1,400 lbs according to Purdue, and they are fed between 50 and 90 pounds of grain and hay each day. This is some high quality stuff too, nothing but the best for these girls.

Another fun fact from the website: 1967 is the year plastic milk jugs were introduced in the U.S.

I was asked this question after we got it cleared up that the cattle kids would see in Eastern Wyoming, along highways and in pastures, were not the kind used to produce the milk they drank. In case you were wondering (I was), the best range of milk production for beef breeds in western states that I found was 1-3.5 gallons.

Obviously there is a lot of variation in beef cow's milk production based on her genetics, the diet she is consuming, weather, and various other factors. But, that range does give us an idea that we're looking at less than half the production of dairy cattle in our beef breeds, which makes sense because of the different purposes of dairy and beef cattle.


  1. we have been milking our Holstein the past couple months and I will just say, there is nothing like having fresh raw milk on hand! I jut can't get used to store bought milk now! We have made homemade butter, yogurt, and best of all ICE CREAM! Thank heavens for the beauty that is the milk cow! ps...I call her Brigette...or Gretchen depending on the day!

    1. I am on an intensive Dairy unit in NewZealand. We produce 50,000 litres each day. I get put off drinking the milk by looking at the diagnostics each day of the breakdowns and somatic cell counts and such. I generally Boil the milk first and only use it for milkshakes and ice coffees. Desperately want to make a batch of cheese but don't know where to start.

  2. The world record is 72,000+ not 52,000+