A photographic documentation.
Semen Production Bank
Like all mammals, cows produce milk only after a pregnancy. This is being initiated through artificial insamination. Bulls, whose sperm is obtained for exactly this purpose, are being kept in a semen producion bank.
The goal is to select those bulls who have the best breeding characteristics, and use their sperm on the largest scale possible.
Bulls have a reflex which is activated when they see anything that resembles the backside of a cow and which causes them to become sexually aroused and mount the object whether it is an actual cow or not.
In order to sexually stimulate the bull, the semen production bank uses not a cow but actually another bull. It is secured between two railings and the semen of the other bulls is then obtained while they individually mount it.
More rarely, a dummy is used to trigger the same reflex. However, the bulls do not react as strongly to such an object as they do to another bull.
As the bull from which the sperm is to be obtained mounts the secured tame bull, the clinician collects the bull's ejaculate in an artificial vagina.
After the semen is collected, it is examined in a laboratory, where it is diluted, devided into small portions and conserved.
One ejaculate is devided into 400 to 500 portions (of 0.25 ml or 0.5 ml) on average. One such semen straw contains around 15 million sperm cells.
In 2013 the United States of America exported 125 million Dollars worth of semen to countries inside and outside of the US.
The semen is then deep-frozen in liquid nitrogen at minus 196 °C, which are ideal conditions since they asure the semen's preservability to be almost limitless and thus making a global semen trade possible.
Artificial insemination is the oldest and most successful method for impregnating livestock and is usually performed by a professional inseminator or veterinarian. It is an indispensable part of the milk production in industrialized countries.
Until the middle of the twentieth century, farmers brought their cows to a local bull with the sole purpose of impregnating female cattle. In order to avoid epedemic infections, which occured when using this method, artificial insemination became more and more widely used.
Today it functions as a breeding instrument, because, through artificial insemination, a single bull can father tens of thouands of offspring every year.
The best time to inseminate a cow is while it is in heat. This occurs in regular intervalls and is the telling sign for receptiveness.
When a cow reaches the age of 15 months, it is inseminated for the first time. All following inseminations are performed around six to eight months after the birth of the last calf.
The pregnancy lasts nine months and idealy the cow gives birth to one calf per year in order to keep the milk production at a constant rate.
Generally the calf is separated from it's mother within 24 hours after birth and raised in a small enclosure called a calf igloo.
Female calves stay on the farm to be raised as dairy cows, whereas male calves are, at the age of two weeks, transported to a feedlot where they are fattened for about 24 weeks before being slaughtered.
The first milk, or colostrum, which the mother cow produces directly after giving birth is rich in antibodies. It is very important for the calf in it's first days and is not allowed to be sold.
After a short time the calf is then fed, mostly for financial and spacial reasons, a milk substitute which, among other byproducts of the milk production, like skimmed milk powder and whey powder, also contains milk powder.
After giving birth the cow is milked for about 305 days. In industrialized countries this is being done twice a day by a machine that imitates the sucking of a calf.
The utter is equipped with millions of very small mammary glands, which have the purpose of filtering out the ingredients of the cow's blood that, all combined, make up milk: protein, fat, lactose, calcium and other minerals, as well as vitamins and water.
For the production of one liter milk around 500 liters of blood are being pumped through the udder.
A high milk production is a very important goal of the breeding process. In 1990 a cow already produced 4710 kg of milk per year, in 2018 the number has gone up to 7780 kg per year.
At around the age of five the cow is slaughtered, since it's milk production starts to decline at this point.
For the slaughter the cows are brought from the dairy farm to the slaughterhouse.
The slaughter begins with a with shot of a captive bolt gun to stunn the cow. The goal is to take out the higher brain functions, so that the animal loses it's sentience. After that the cow is hung up by one leg and it's throat is cut, it will bleed out and can then be dismembered.
Eventually, the blood loss and with it the ceasing of the oxygen supply to the brain, lead to the death of the animal.
Between 50 and 60 percent of the animal's mass is then being used for consumption after the slaughter.
From the dairy farm the milk is brought to the dairy factory where it is turned into various dairy products. Dairy farmers depend first and foremost on the price the dairy factories are willing to pay per liter, this is also the first place where corners are being cut in order for the factories to be able to stay competitive.
Not only do supply and demand play an important role in determening the price of milk, but also the conditions of global trade.
The total liberalization of the milk market puts an enormous pressure on the producers to produce as cheaply and efficiently as possible.
In 2017 the global milk production is estimated to have been as high as 501 million tons, and the global trade of dairy products grows by the year.