Cattle Grazing

Answer by Diane Eager

To answer this question we need to consider what makes a cow produce milk in the first place.

Like all mammals, cows produce milk to feed their babies.  Therefore, the first time a cow will produce milk is when she has a calf.  After that she will continue to produce milk until the calf no longer needs it.  Once lactation has started, the stimulus to keep producing milk is the suckling by the calf.  As the calf grows and its digestive system matures it will start supplementing its diet with grass.  When the calf is able to get all its nutrition from grass it will cease suckling, and the cow will cease producing milk until she has another calf.

If for some reason the suckling calf is removed and the mother continues producing milk, she will need to be milked in order to avoid pain and inflammation.  Likewise, if the calf is deliberately removed and a farmer continues to milk the cow, she will continue to produce milk for many months while her udder is daily stimulated.  Modern dairy cows have been bred from the best milkers, and they do need to be milked regularly to keep producing.  They can be milked for around 10 months a year before they cease producing milk. Then they need a dry period of approximately 60 days for the udder tissue to regenerate, and for the cow to regain condition, in order to feed the next calf, and for the cycle to begin again.

Now, back to Adam and Eve.  What about any cows in or around the Garden of Eden? We can be dogmatic, Adam and Eve would not have had to milk them! Why not? Simply because Genesis tells us God created cattle and told them to multiply according to their kinds. (Genesis 1:24-25)  Even though the first cattle on earth were created fully functional adults ready to breed, there were no pregnant cows nor newborn calves, so there were no cows making milk until after the birth of the first calves.  Assuming present-day cow pregnancy duration, it would have been at least 300 days before milking would have even been conceivable.

The first cow to produce milk would have been the first cow to birth a calf.  That cow would then have produced enough milk to feed her calf in response to the hormonal and physical stimuli cows are designed to react to.  When that first calf could live on grass the cow would cease producing milk until she had another calf.

Genesis also tells us everything God made was very good.  Therefore, we can be certain that the first cows to come into milk produced just the right amount of milk for their calves and would not have been in danger of pain or inflammation.

Finally, Adam and Eve were told to live on a diet of plants, and in the very good world there was an abundance of nutritious, tasty plant foods for them to eat.  Therefore, they would have no reason for wanting to milk cows for milk to drink, or to make cheese and other dairy products.  It helps us to understand why the first time milk products for human consumption are mentioned in the Bible is after Noah’s flood, during the time of Abraham, when he offered his three visitors “milk and curds”. (Genesis 18:8)

Present day dairy cattle need good pasture to keep producing, so an abundance of milk was a sign of good fertile land.  When God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt He promised them a land “flowing with milk and honey” to indicate how good the Promised Land would be, and how generous was God’s provision for them (Exodus 3:8).  This promise is repeated many times throughout the Exodus period.

By New Testament times, the Apostle Peter uses milk as a symbol of God’s Word providing essential nutritious spiritual food for newborn Christians. (1 Peter 2:2)  Therefore, we encourage you to drink God’s life-giving word daily, and then eat the meat of it to grow strong in Christ.

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