Life Expectancy of Cattle

Life Expectancy of Cattle 

A cow named "Milla" celebrated her 25th birthday on a farm in 2016 – but only a few cows have this happiness


In the past, cattle were additionally used as working animals, but today most breeds are specialised, and are either used primarily to produce milk or meat as fattening animals. Most of them have a certain production period, after which they are slaughtered.

But how long could beef cattle live if they were not slaughtered? And how old could dairy cows be if they didn't die prematurely because they were exhausted by intensive milk production and constant calving? There is little data on the old age of cattle, that have been bred extremely for high performance. With a few exceptions, they are never kept until their natural death.

The representation of the maximum life expectancy is therefore mostly about experiences with farm animals of different breeds, which are kept in sanctuaries or farms until they die of old age. It is known that some cattle have reached at least the age of 20. According to the Guinness World Records, a cow, called “Big Bertha” from Ireland lived more than 48 years!

The short lifespan of beef cattle and dairy cows

Life expectancy for cattle, kept as farm animals, looks sad: dairy cows have the longest life - and it is less than six years. The life expectancy of breeding bulls (about three years) and fattening cattle (just under two years) is even lower. A young animal that is slaughtered for veal cannot live for even a year. The lifespan of a fattening calf is only eight months.

Life expectancy of a cow

What can you do? 

We recommend following the 3R's principle and more to help cattle 

  • Reduce the consumption of meat and other animal-based products you buy and consume.
  • If you absolutely must buy meat and dairy products, refine your purchase and find out about the conditions in which the animals are kept and refrain from using conventional products.
  • Instead, prefer products that are animal-friendly or organically produced.
  • Replace the meat and dairy in your diet. Limit your meat consumption and try tasty vegetable alternatives such as seitan or soy products.
  • Buy more plant-based alternatives such as oat or almond milk or products made from them. There is now a large selection of vegan "milk", "yoghurt" or "cheese".
  • Ask in restaurants and cafes about the origin of their milk and meat or about plant-based alternatives.
  • Stand against agonising housing conditions.
  • Sign our petition to stop live animal transport in Europe.
  • If you witness suffering of a farm animal find out what to do here.
Cow and calf

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