Copyright

How do Cows Make Milk? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

In the US, if someone is drinking a glass of milk, that milk probably came from a cow. This lesson will teach you about dairy cows, what they need, and how they make the milk you drink before it ever gets to your grocery store.

Kinds of Cows that Make Milk

Imagine coming in from playing outside on a hot summer day. For lunch, your mom gives you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich along with a tall glass of cold milk. You're thirsty so you take a big gulp but probably don't think about where the milk you're drinking came from.

Holstein (pronounced HOLE-steen) cows are the most common kind of dairy cow in the US because they make the most milk. They are white with black spots and each one has its own unique pattern, like when you tie-dye a shirt! But they aren't the only kind of cow that is used as a dairy cow. Other kinds include Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, and Jersey cows.

Holstein cow
Holstein

Why Cows Make Milk

Cows are mammals, just like humans. All mammals make milk to feed their babies. In order for her body to make milk, a mother cow must have just given birth to a calf. This birth tells her body that it's time to make milk, which humans can collect and process for drinking themselves.

So long as a cow is being milked regularly, she will continue to make milk for about 10 months, even if she gets pregnant again during that time. Farmers will usually stop milking the cow a couple of months before the birth of the new calf, and then the whole process starts over again.

Just like you, cows need food to get the nutrition their body needs to work well, including making milk. Cows eat things like alfalfa hay, straw, pellets made out of soybeans, and cottonseeds. They can eat about 100 pounds of food each day, which is as much as a miniature horse weighs!

Dairy cows eating hay
Dairy cows eating hay

How Cows Make Milk

Cows break down food a little differently than you do because their stomachs have four sections instead of one.

  • First, cows eat their dinner and it goes into the first section of their stomach where it mixes in with water.
  • In the second section, the food gets squished into small balls that are called cud. The cud goes back into the cow's mouth so it can chew it a little more.
  • Then, it goes into the third section of the stomach where the water gets squeezed out.
  • Finally, the food is broken down in the fourth section so the nutrients can be taken in by an organ called the small intestine.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account
Support