What Is the Difference Between Cow and Heifer?
Livestock

What Is the Difference Between Cow and Heifer?

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The cow has been present with man since man domesticated the first animals. Their value in the past has been invaluable. Having a cow meant having wealth and security because in addition to supplying milk, cows are strong animals, and the grass is enough to raise them. Today, cows do not mean wealth but are used to produce meat and milk. Cows go through different stages in their lives and therefore have names for certain periods. Do you know what is the difference between cow and heifer?

The difference between a cow and a heifer is in their maturity. Heifer is an immature cow who has not yet given birth to the calf and therefore does not yet produce milk. After the heifer gives birth to the calf she becomes a cow. After giving birth heifer, can be a dairy cow for the next 5 to 6 years.

Cows are one of the most common domesticated animals. In 2016, it was estimated that there are approximately one trillion cows in the world, most of them in Brazil, China, and of course India, where cows are considered sacred animals. There are 920 breeds of cows in the world today. Cows are present in all areas where man is, and their breeding began a long time ago, about 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.

About cow

The cow comes from the Bovinae family which also includes gazelles, buffalo, bison, antelopes, and also sheep and goat. Cows are bred for a variety of reasons, and rarely does anyone keep them in their backyards to be exclusively a pet. They are used for the production of milk, cheese, and other dairy products, for the production of meat, or the production of leather. In fact, cows are one of the most common farm animals around the world, next to pigs, chicken, and sheep.

Throughout life, a cow has different phases and thus different names depending on whether it is male or female. The baby male cow is called a bull calf. An adult male is called a bull. Male bulls are often castrated to reduce their aggression. The baby female cow is called a heifer calf. A heifer is a female that has not had any offspring. After giving birth to the calf, the heifer becomes a cow.

The size and weight of a cow depend on the breed and diet. Usually, a male weighs about 1,100 kilograms, while a cow weighs about 720 kilograms. With their 32 large teeth, they feed on grass, ie shade and supplements that are fed to them in large farms.

The specialty of the cow is certainly her four-chambered belly which serves for fermentation. Cows shed food several times and chew it again to sort the eaten food and absorb nutrients. Since she will chew food many times before digesting it, this gives her the ability to quickly put in large amounts of grass while in a sensitive position with her head down. Mother Nature truly thought of everything.

A cow can live for about 20 years, but in commercial farms, cows live only 5 to 6 years after which they are sent to slaughterhouses. Hindu countries consider cows sacred. They are not gods for them and they do not worship it. Hindus are vegetarian and they consider a cow to be a sacred symbol of life that should be protected and respected.

About heifer

Before she grows up, a female cow is a heifer calf and then grows into a heifer. A heifer is a young cow that has not yet given birth to a calf. The term is usually used for females who are not yet adults, so they cannot even give birth. They show a sexual urge but have not mated or been physically developed to the end. However, after the heifer gives birth to the first calf, she becomes a cow.

Heifers are usually bred for later breeding, for beef or leather production.

What is the difference between cow and heifer?

Heifers are actually cows at puberty. Although they have begun to develop they have not yet reached full maturity. Unlike a cow, a heifer cannot produce milk. For a cow to start producing milk, it needs to have a calf. We know that heifers have not yet given birth so their mammary glands have not yet started producing milk.

The meat of heifer and cow is very different. The finest and highest quality meat is that of a young cow or heifer. If you eat lower quality meat it is beef. The older the cow, the tougher the meat will be. You will need a lot more time to prepare such meat, and it is mostly put in stews or canned food. You will not get a quality steak from it, so this meat is mostly used for processing.

How long is a cow a heifer?

The cow is a heifer until she gets pregnant and gives birth to at least one calf. Heifer is ready to give birth for the first time when she is 2-3 years old, on average. Heifers are sexually mature as early as 8-9 months. At one year of age, heifers must reach half the weight of an adult cow. However, they are capable of breeding only at 14-15 months of age and weighing over 350 kilograms which is 60-65% of the expected weight of an adult cow.

When heifer develops and becomes sexually active, they can be impregnated naturally by a bull or with artificial insemination performed by a farmer. Artificial insemination is increasingly used since large industrial farms do not have bulls, but they are predominantly dairy cows that are bred to produce large quantities of milk.

Cows are reproductively active all year long. Most calves are born in the spring season because during this period they can get the most nutrients that a cow and calf need. The temperature is ideal, the grass grows and a sufficient amount of food is available to the cows. It is possible, however, to have a calving season during autumn or throughout the year so that the farm has constant milk supplies.

In order for mating to be successful, it is important that the cow is healthy. If she is malnourished, the risk of calving difficulties increases. Obese cows can also have problems with calving, and first calving can be very difficult and may result in a cesarean section. The gestation period is around 283 days. The baby must be closely monitored for the cow to continue to grow during pregnancy as it develops up to 3 years of age.

Can you milk a heifer?

All mammals produce milk to feed their young. Cows, however, are special in that because they give huge amounts of milk during their lifetime. There are 20 million cows that produce milk in the world, of which 23 million are dairy cows in the European Union.

Heifer can’t have milk, though. In order for a heifer to start producing milk, it needs to have a calf beforehand. Pregnancy heifer lasts 9 months, just like in humans. After pregnancy, the cow begins to secrete milk. After she starts giving milk to her young.

However, the calf is quickly separated from the milk. In the first days, he drinks colostrum, very nutritious milk that is necessary for his survival. After the colostrum is depleted, the calf is switched to milk or milk replacer. Most often the farmer gives the youngsters milk from a bottle to keep track of how much the youngsters eat. Excess milk then begins to be collected for human use. Young heifer 5 to 6 years old can be used as a dairy cow.

During its lifetime, the cow will give 200,000 glasses of milk. Milking cows can be done by hand or with the help of milking machines that suck the milk with a vacuum from the cow’s udder. Milking cows by hand was a traditional method used until the mid 20th century. By hand, a farmer can milk 6 cows per hour, while a machine can milk as many as 100 a day. Some farms have a voluntary milking system which allows cows to decide when they are ready to milk. 

For dairy cows to give milk it is necessary to give birth to one calf once a year. One birth can produce milk for 10 months of the year. How much milk a cow will produce per year depends on the breed, living conditions, and diet. Stress, poor nutrition, disease, and discomfort negatively affect milk production so it is important to make sure that the cows live in comfortable conditions. Depending on these factors, a cow can give between 6,800 kilograms to 17,000 kilograms of milk per year.

High-quality milk is produced by the cow for three years after which the quality reduces. When the milk is not that good anymore, the cows are sent to the slaughterhouse and their meat is used for beef.

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