Count the Cow as One of Our Blessings
Dec 06, 2010
The livelihoods and lifestyles of those of us in the dairy business are what they are because of this marvelous creature.
I was reading through some scientific papers that discussed recent advances in our understanding of metabolic and disease processes in the cow. I’m amazed that with each new discovery we open the doors to more new and fascinating aspects of what goes on inside a cow.
As we reflect on our blessings during this holiday season, one blessing that anyone reading this must share is our dependence on “the foster mother of the human race.” The livelihoods and lifestyles of those of us in the dairy business are what they are because of this marvelous creature.
During the past year, we discussed everything from milk prices to transition rations in these columns. We looked at ways to increase profitability. Even though we’ve had a tough couple of years in the dairy industry, it’s not the cows’ fault. She continues to do what she does: have babies and produce milk.
One of the papers I was reading by Dr. Dale Bauman discussed the process of homeorhesis during life cycle changes, such as lactation and pregnancy in a cow. Homeorhesis is defined as the “orchestrated changes for priorities of a physiological state.” Dr. Bauman described homeorhesis as analogous to “a symphony conductor who produces a harmonious symphony by coordinating the contributions of all the various instrumental groups that make up the orchestra.”
An example of homeorhesis is all the changes that occur in the physiological processes when a cow transitions from calving to lactation (increased nutrient usage from body fat and glucose, mobilization of protein reserves, increased mineral absorption and increased feed intake). The cow usually (if we provide her with good feed and comfortable conditions) makes these very complicated biological processes look amazingly simple and elegant.
We will continue to discover more of the intricacies of what makes a cow work. Hopefully, we can use these discoveries not to exploit the cow but to improve cow health, comfort, production and reproduction.
And, hopefully, these scientific contributions will lead to improved profitability and sustainability in the dairy business. As one of my clients always says, “Take care of your cows and they will take care of you.”