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Why we need cows – Audio

Why do we need cows?

Michel Wattiaux, Professor
Department of Dairy Science
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(608) 263-3493

A cow caught at breakfast. Marshfield ARS. Photos by UW-Madison CALS Sevie Kenyon

3:03 – Total time
0:17 – Why do we need dairy cows
0:53 – Cows helping society
1:27 – Cows helping the poor
1:51 – Empowering women
2:26 – The future of livestock worldwide
2:55 – Lead out


Sevie Kenyon: The big question, why do we need dairy cows? We’re visiting today with Michel Wattiaux, Department of Dairy Science University of Wisconsin – Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Michel, the big question, why do we need cows in the world?

Michel Wattiaux: There is the obvious reason, that our dairy cows are a source of a lot of high quality human food, milk, dairy product, cheese, that really serve human nutrition. But, there are many other reasons to have cows around, cows can actually help the environment. Many people think that cows are a source of pollution and in a way they are because cows produce methane but on the other hand you manage your cow really well they can contribute more to society than cost to the society.

Sevie Kenyon: And Michel, can you give us an example of how that works?

Michel Wattiaux: If we make those cows use, for example, in their rations byproducts from the human food industry that would otherwise go to waste, landfill, and produce methane, why don’t we just use those by-products feed in the cow diet. That would be a great service to society.

Sevie Kenyon: It’s a world filled with poor people and increasing population, what opportunities do the livestock and dairy businesses offer to that group of people?

Michel Wattiaux: Steady income, you sell the milk every day, every week, every month you got a paycheck and dairy is one of the only rural, you know economic activity that provides a steady income to a farmer. Another thing that dairy cows are doing, in many developing countries is to help empower women. It helps empower women because in many developing countries the situation is so dire that the men have to leave the household to go and work in construction in cities and the women are left behind to take care of the livestock. And so, women have a greater say when it comes to how the cows are fed and what we do with the milk, we sell it, we give it to the kids, so there’s a lot more happening in the developing countries in term of what the dairy cow is doing for communities.

Sevie Kenyon: Michel, look into your crystal ball what do you see happening to the livestock, dairy business worldwide?

Michel Wattiaux: There is opportunity everywhere, there are opportunities everywhere, I think the traditional dairy systems as we’ve known it in Wisconsin for the last few generation is something that will be happening in other countries in the future, but I don’t think we stop the progress of our own dairy industry and there is actually so little that we know about milk and how it can help human health.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Michel Wattiaux, Department of Dairy Science University of Wisconsin – Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.