Like humans, cows only produce milk for their offspring. However, for the dairy cows their babies are killed so we can drink their milk.


Like humans, cows only produce milk for their offspring. However, for the dairy cows their babies are killed so we can drink their milk.

Dairy cows are routinely artificially impregnated and kept in a relentless cycle of pregnancy, birthing and milk production, until they are eventually slaughtered.  

Many suffer chronic mastitis, lameness, severe liver damage and painful digestive disorders.

Cows and their calves are separated at birth. Mums will break down fences and walk miles to reunite with their babies. Both cry out for days to be reunited.

Male calves and surplus females are reared for veal or immediately slaughtered. Millions of cows and their calves are killed every year so humans can consume dairy products.

Breeding: Semen Extraction

Farmed cows, and specifically, almost all cows exploited in the dairy industry, are forcibly impregnated.

In order to breed calves that are of the ‘highest quality’, only specific bulls are used for breeding. The semen that is inserted into female cows is taken from bulls through means such as ‘electro-ejaculation’.

This exploitative method involves forcing  a probe into the rectum of a bull which stimulates him until he involuntarily ejaculates.

One ‘straw’ of semen to be forced into a cow’s uterus can be sold for over $90. When bulls are no longer profiting farmers with their semen, they are generally slaughtered.

Breeding: Artificial Insemination

Artificial insemination (AI) exploits the sexual organs of a female cow, and in practical terms, means forcing a fist into the anus of a cow and inserting a rod with semen into her uterus, through her vagina.

From an industry reference for farmers:

‘Although not part of the female genital tract, the rectum…is an important organ for you to become familiar with because your arm inside the cow will be working through this thin-walled tube… 

…Again, the anus is stretchable, hence, your hand and arm can easily slip into the rectum. Circular muscle contractions move along the rectal wall toward the outside. When strong, these contractions may block your hand from moving forward and make it difficult to manipulate the genital organs through the rectal wall…

…To deposit semen at this location requires the use of a special device called Cassou pipette, or “AI gun”… The inseminator places his hand in the rectum and manipulates the reproductive tract so that the gun passes through the vagina, then it is manipulated through the cervical rings, and then held at the internal opening of the cervix for semen deposition.’

This process is repeated yearly in dairy cows, until their bodies can no longer stand it and they are sent to slaughter. This process also occurs in the beef industry.

Calves: Separation

For humans to consume dairy, the baby that a mother’s milk is intended for cannot be consuming it. For this reason, within 24 hours after birth, mother cows and their calves are separated.

A mother, Clarabelle, and her baby at Edgar’s Mission sanctuary

Research has shown that, unsurprisingly, calves taken away from their mothers become distressed, pessimistic and even depressed.

Mother cows grieving their babies have been seen crying out for their babies, days after they are taken from them. Cows are also known to chase the vehicle farmers take their babies away with, in a desperate attempt to stay together.

Calves: Slaughter

Calves born into both the beef and dairy industries (as well as leather, as this industry is linked to the aforementioned) are called bobby calves for their first month of life.

If bobby calves are born weak due to being sick or injured they are supposed to be ‘destroyed’ on farms. If a calf is under 24 hours old, they can be killed with blunt trauma, such as a hammer to the head. If calves are older, they can be shot with a rifle or captive bolt gun. These dead calves can be buried in mass ‘dead piles’ or burnt on site.

In the dairy industry, all male calves, except for a small amount used for breeding, are slaughtered, as they will never produce milk. One quarter of female calves are also slaughtered, as they are not required for replacement of the ‘milking herd’.

The dairy industry in Australia slaughters over 500,000 calves every year.

At five days, if they have not been killed on the farm, these bobby calves are sent to the slaughterhouse and killed.

(Our Cow Truth bobby calf campaign video)

Bobby calf bodies are used for valuable hides for leather, calf rennet for cheese making, and their blood is sometimes used for the pharmaceutical industry.

A small amount of calves are slaughtered later, but still as babies, for veal meat and calf skin products.


Cows that are exploited for dairy spend their shortened lives either pregnant, or being milked.

Most cows are milked two to three times per day, when they are hooked up to industrial milking machines.

One third of dairy cows are estimated to suffer from mastitis, inflammation of a cow’s mammary gland caused by bacteria entering the teat and moving into the udder. Mastitis spreads across a herd during milking, and is incredibly painful. It causes the udder to be hot, and swollen, and sometimes even gangrenous and blackened. Cows can become extremely ill, depressed and may die. The milk cows with mastitis produce is abnormal, and can be discoloured, even containing clots and blood.


Photo: L214

After approximately 7 years, when the repetitive cycle of abuse has taken its toll and milk production has decreased, cows are sent to slaughter, in some cases while pregnant.


See our Cow Truth page for more information on cow slaughter and more.