Dairy farming can be a tough job. There are multiple moving parts to factor in, important decisions to make, and an entire herd of animals to care for. With those things in mind, it’s only natural to look for techniques to simplify how we manage a complex and successful farming business.

That said, we cannot afford to forget just how much work our cows are also doing for us.

We love our bovine buddies. That’s why, when thinking of ways to discuss the “Lactation Curve” for our new video, we approached the topic in a slightly different way - by asking an important, but simple question:

What’s the experience like from the cow’s perspective?

So let us question further, but also share a glimpse into the unique creative process that went into creating this fun new animation!

Watch: A dairy cow’s journey through lactation

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If the image above doesn't work, you can find the video here: Lactation Curve Animation

What is the lactation curve?

Let’s remind ourselves about the lactation curve.

The curve is the journey dairy cows take through lactation - talking in terms of energy and effort levels. When entering lactation, the cow begins to ‘climb’ the curve: energy requirements skyrocket to help them produce the milk they need, minimise their loss of body condition, and consume the nutrients necessary to stay healthy.

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With the right support and nutrition, cows make their way through this gruelling period to finally achieve ‘peak’ lactation – i.e. they reach the top of the curve.

Once their time at the top comes to an end, their nutritional needs begin to change again as they start the ‘descent’. Eventually they reach the bottom of the curve to rest before getting back into calf and starting the journey anew.

If you’re a dairy farmer, you are likely familiar with the process. There are nuances to managing this process though, which is why we wanted to talk about it - and explain how we can help our cows along their way. 

How the idea happened

This animation began life as a very simple idea: a hand-drawn sketch of a cow climbing a mountain.

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The inspiration came to Neil Birkett, Regional Sales Manager AMEA at Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients, imaging the cow’s journey as a literal climb up a mountain to enjoy the view at the top. The “Dairy Cow’s Mountain”.

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From starting her adventure at base camp, the cow works her way up the face of the mountain (with ice picks in hand) eventually reaching the top to admire the view. From there, she skis down the slopes before arriving at a sunny beach for some much-needed rest and relaxation. 

With Neil’s vision in mind, we began plotting out the animation.

Early versions featured a much more cartoony look…

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It didn’t take long for us to settle on a look we loved, however.

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Next steps saw us mapping out our cow’s journey in more detail, tracking things such as energy levels and body condition in some eye-catching “power” gauges.

Explaining his inspiration, Neil told us, “I really want to show just how much cows have to put into this journey - everything’s against her (the dairy cow). It’s a real slog for her climbing to the peak. With the right balance of fatty acids and feed, we’re making sure we help keep her at the top for as long as possible."

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Why is this perspective important?

Even if you’re familiar with the concept of the ‘lactation curve’, we wanted to highlight exactly what cows experience during the process - and make clear how we can help make life easier for them, allowing them to thrive.

The journey is no small task; the levels of energy involved in climbing the curve can be astounding: at points, cows require more fuel than they are physically able to consume. 

Learn more: Are you feeding enough fat?

By giving a voice to the cow, we wanted to help change the way we frame the lactation curve ‘challenge’ - If we were to ask a cow what she needs to help her run her personal marathon, what would she tell us?

“At different stages we have to consider things such as body condition, milk yield, and milk quality,” Neil continued. “So, we need to make sure we’re providing exactly the support she needs; ensuring we’re feeding the right balance of fatty acids at the right stages of lactation.”

That’s where we can help - by ensuring our cows are receiving the nutrition they need, when they need it.

Learn more: Decisions, Decisions: Choosing the right feed fat

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How you can learn more

Finding new ways to keep technical talking points interesting is something we are always striving to achieve.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at our animation. It goes without saying that we had a lot of fun putting it together!

Be sure to follow us across social media for all of our latest videos, blogs and more. Rest assured, there’s more where this came from…