By: Krista Stauffer, Washington Dairy Farmer

A cow has to give birth to produce milk. 

When does a cow give birth to her first calf?
It varies from farm-to-farm, but on our dairy a heifer—young female that has not yet given birth—will calve around 24 months of age. During her pregnancy she will be on her first “lactation,” which simply means time producing milk between each calf.

When will she get pregnant again?
Our farm is primarily bull bred; meaning almost all our cows are bred by a bull. We split our herd into two groups of cows. One group has a herd bull, while the other does not. Every cow that recently gave birth goes into the group without a bull. We want her to have plenty of time to recover from delivery, and make sure she has no post-calving issues. At 45-60 days, we will move her to the group with the bull; sometimes longer depending on the cow. This doesn’t mean she will get pregnant right away. She still has one heat (ovulation) every month. She could get pregnant her first, second or third heat, though typically, it happens during her first or second. Every cow is unique. We have a cow who has been milking for over a year that we will not allow to get pregnant again. She is an older cow, and we do not feel like her giving birth again would be right. She will stay on the farm until she is done producing milk, and we will then have to decide where to go from there—to the sale barn to enter the food supply, or to provide food for our family.

How long are cows pregnant for?
Cows are pregnant for nine months.

What happens if a cow does not produce milk?
Simply put, she enters the beef supply. 20% of beef in the U.S. is from dairy cows.

To read the full blog and more from Krista, visit

Krista Stauffer is a new addition to U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance's Digital Voices Council. To learn more about the program and bloggers who participate, click here.