Thursday, March 20, 2014

Milk Nutrition Facts


90% of American Milk Comes from a Single Breed of Cow

Throughout the world, there are more than 6 billion consumers of milk and milk products. Over 750 million people live within dairy farming households. Milk is a key contributor to improving nutrition and food security particularly in developing countries. Improvements in livestock and dairy technology offer significant promise in reducing poverty and malnutrition in the world.

Throughout the developed world, the dairy industry has become dominated by one remarkable breed of cow, the Holstein-Friesian. Almost two-thirds of dairy cows in Europe, and 90% of dairy cows in North America, are Holsteins. Other breeds are still reared in places, such as the Jersey, the Normande, the Ayrshire and the Guernsey, but over the last few decades more and more dairy farmers have turned to the Holstein.

The breed currently averages 7655 liters/year throughout 3.2 lactations, with pedigree animals averaging 8125 liters/year over an average of 3.43 lactations. By adding, lifetime production therefore stands at around 26,000 liters. The Holstein is the most efficient milk machine ever created, turning relatively small amounts of feed into huge volumes of milk and butterfat.

This has long been known, but recent advances in artificial insemination techniques in mass breeding programmes have produced huge numbers of these cows around the world. But there are concerns that this concentration on a single breed makes the dairy industry very vulnerable. If, for instance, the Holstein were to fall victim to a new mutation of a parasite, virus or bacteria, the effects could be disastrous. With so few other cows to fall back on, the world could suddenly find itself almost without milk and butter. Livestock breeders have been very successful at breeding cows to produce huge quantities of milk, but they have never attempted to breed in disease resistance.

The Holstein could be vulnerable to global warming, too. Holsteins are very sensitive to heat, and in the hotter countries where they are raised, farmers already use expensive sprinkler systems, fans and cooling ponds to keep them cool. Any rise in global temperatures could see Holsteins wilting around the world, and there are far too few other breeds to take up the slack.

This concentration on a single breed in the dairy industry has been mirrored right across the farming world, and is raising worries. Over the last century, more than 90% of crop varieties have disappeared. In China, more than 90% of wheat varieties have been lost in the last half-century. Over the past fifteen years, 300 out of the 6,000 farm animal breeds identified by the Food and Agriculture Organization have become extinct, and two breeds are now being lost forever each week.

Such a concentration on so few strains and breeds has undoubtedly brought huge benefits in terms of production, but this not only brings with it a frightening vulnerability to catastrophic failure, but also a massive loss of choice and variety. Half a century ago, milk could be from Jersey, Guernsey or any one of a huge range of different breeds of cow, each with its own distinctive flavour. Now milk is essentially milk, which means Holstein milk.

Do you want to know more about the food you eat? Learn more at... Healthy Food Facts

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