Dutch cow breaks bovine age record

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The oldest milk cow in the Netherlands is celebrating her 20th birthday on Friday, breaking the age record by two years. Agricultural umbrella organisation LTO is seizing the opportunity to put the spotlight on cow welfare.

LTO spokesman Siem Jan Schenk, speaking at a birthday party for cow Wiebrig-26 in the village of Riel, said that good care will improve the animals' well-being and lead to cows enjoying longer lives. Mr Schenk quoted some figures illustrating the benefits of a longer bovine life.

If a cow lives one year longer, she can produce another 8,000 to 10,000 litres of milk. The need for raising calves becomes less, which in turn leads to a reduction of manure production, greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions. Ultimately, the costs incurred by the farmers will be lower.

Robust cows Mr Schenk warned against cattle-breeding with an exclusive focus on increasing milk production. It is important to have "robust" cows, he said, which although producing less milk are better able to withstand disease. A cow which feels comfortable is also advantageous to the farmer, the LTO representative said.

On average, Dutch milk cows reach an age of six or seven. The latest record, two years ago, was 18.3 years. Wiebrig-26's two decades are a new record, and it will be a long wait before this is broken. Perhaps even until the cows come home.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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