Milk plays a crucial role in the life of all animal species, right from birth. It is rich in nutrients necessary for health, development and production. Although this is not a popular practise, cows drink their own milk for a number of reasons. In fact, due to its higher nutritional profile, some farmers provide it to recently calved cows and the effects are profound. However, despite this benefit, sometimes cows drink their on milk by self-suckling which is not recommended. This is because it can affect livestock health and production.

Self-Suckling Cows

Although cows can drink their own milk for improved health, production and their overall physical appearance, self-suckling is not recommended. Self-suckling is basically a self-explanatory term used to refer to cows that drink their own milk. Self-suckling can possibly result in harm limiting productivity and the success of the entire agricultural venture. According to experts, it can damage the udder and the teats. This is most likely because the udder is not made to be suckled by species as large and demanding as a grown cow. In addition to causing harm to teats, this practise is also shunned because it affects the farmer’s bottom line. Since the cows drink their own milk, a rapid drop in production is experienced leading to declined profits. As such, some farmers have been known to take self-suckling cows to the slaughter. In extreme cases, such livestock are known to even suckle from other domestic animals. In order to manage this problem, there is need for farmers to have knowledge on the cause of such behavioural patterns. According to reports from various farmers, cows can drink their own milk in response to the pain of calving as well as from the discomfort of her engorged udder. One hypothesis is that it is due to a mineral deficiency.

Milk for Improved Health and Production

Cows drink their own milk without experiencing any negative effects. In fact, this is not a new practise as cows have been generally known to drink their own milk in some scenarios. As previously stated, a number of farmers provide milk to newly calved cows due to its benefits. According to various research studies, the very first milk a cow produces is very rich in nutrients and can help the cow regain her strength, particularly soon after calving. Hence the justification for providing cows that have just given birth with colostrum. An important factor to be aware of is that too much milk can be harmful thereby resulting in adverse effects on both animal health and productivity. As such, prior to providing newly calved cows with milk, farmers ought to be aware of the appropriate rations.  Note that in most cases, mature cows do not drink their own milk as they can no longer produce enzymes needed to digest colostrum.

Do Cows Drink Milk?

Cows drink their own milk and so it is common for farmers to wonder if cows drink milk in general, particularly from other livestock. This may also come from the fact that milk helps newly calved dairy cows to regain their strength. Nonetheless, as earlier implied, adult cows should not be allowed to drink any form of milk. Similar to humans, animals produce milk for their young ones. They are then weaned off milk at a certain age after which they no longer produce lactose necessary for proper digestion of milk components. Note that this is an important point to be aware of and so can never the over-emphasized. That being said, adult cows do not drink milk and instead should be provided with a sufficient supply of water. Under normal circumstances, cows do not crave milk. If this happens, it may be due to shortage of minerals. Therefore, cows drink milk as a means of supplementing deficient minerals. In such a scenario, take care to provide livestock with feed additives rich in lacking trace elements rather than providing them with milk which may seem like a cheaper option. Note that milk is only harmful when provided in excess. In the old days before intravenous treatment became common, the folk remedy for post-parturient hypocalcaemia was to feed a cow milk from another cow. This was done to replenish the calcium she was deficient in. This clearly indicates that cows drink milk, though in very limited amounts. Experts reveal that as cows are ruminants, and not particularly adept at digesting fats, milk can cause digestive upset when given in large amounts.

What Happens When a Cow Drinks Her Own Milk?

Cows drink their own milk for various reasons. It is essential for farmers to understand that although milk can be beneficial to some extent, it is primarily meant for cows. This is because adult mammals tend to grow lactose intolerant. When mammals are young, they produce the enzyme lactase which allows for the efficient break down and digestion of lactose molecules present in milk. As they grow old, they produce less lactose until becoming lactose intolerant. Therefore, when cows drink their own milk, they may suffer from a number of health related issues including diarrhoea and mastitis. In severe cases, the effects can be detrimental. The disease can spread throughout the herd resulting in low productivity and loss. Although milk is known to cause diarrhoea to adult cows, this is not always the case. Just as with adult humans, some cows drink milk without experiencing any negative effects on health and productivity. Cows are generally not picky in terms of type of feed. They consume a range of feedstuff, provided it is palatable. As such, cows drink milk. If livestock are milked and the bucket is left in areas with cows, they may drink the milk. This has been recorded in some farms. As a consequence, instead of experiencing diarrhoea, their body score is said to improve. Their coats can get shinier and manure may not be affected. Nonetheless, this does not happen often. In most cases, adult cows cannot digest milk. Farmers are not advised to provide adult cows with any form of milk. The risk is higher that the benefits.