When Zoe’s city cousins came to visit the other day, they were horrified to see one of our cows with a crimson udder. “Oh my God, she’s bleeding!” cried one of the boys.
“No, it’s okay, she’s just painted,” laughed Zoe.
They were almost as astonished by Zoe’s reply as they were horrified by the thought of all the bleeding.
Why do dairy farmers paint cows?
We buy paint for cows in bulk. We use orange to denote a freshly calved cow still producing colostrum, blue when we want to keep an eye on a cow for some reason, red when she’s undergoing treatment and green once the treatment is complete.
The red paint is a warning to everyone who milks the cow – first, she needs treatment and, second, her milk must not enter the vat. Instead, it is collected in a separate bucket and discarded. Thankfully, Australia’s food safety regulations are very stringent and no trace of antibiotics may be present in milk.
You might also see cow’s backbones right near their tails painted different colours. But that’s a story for mating season.