Recently, I received new insights on the life of a cow when I made a trip to Inner Mongolia.
When thinking of a dairy farm, the first thing that comes to mind would be dung, plenty of it all over the place. Then one would imagine the odour and the flies.
So, when I was invited to a dairy farm near Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, I mentally prepared myself to slosh through the filth to get my story.
We were taken to the cattle farm of Mengniu Dairy Industry somewhere in the hills miles away from Hohhot. It was a windy, dusty and bumpy ride but our patience was well rewarded when, at last, we saw the cows.
They were all black and white and were comfortably resting under huge shades.
Some were sun-tanning themselves near the sprawling complex standing alone on the expansive grassland.
A staff member greeted us and led us up to the mezzanine floor, which is more of a viewing balcony, of the squeaky clean building surrounded by huge glass windows.
There we were introduced to the cows, about a hundred of them, each with its own cubicle on the ground floor.
They were munching leisurely while others were being “escorted” into the complex from the shade, ready for milking.
Food was laid out like a buffet lunch and the cows could at any time poke their heads through the railing and have a bite.
There were no cowherds shouting orders, no whips cracking and no dogs barking. In short, no one tells the cows what to do, and they live in complete freedom.
Every bit of metal was chromed and running water constantly cleaned the floor. What's more, there was a nice song, called “The steppe, my homeland,” playing through the PA system.
I thought it resembled an airport lounge more than anything else and wondered where the dung and the flies I had imagined were.
We asked why the cows were serenaded and the guide explained that when the cows are in a good mood, they give more milk.
We were also told that when a cow felt the need to be milked, it would sashay to the milking cubicle and a smart robot which “knows” the cow's vital statistics would do a perfect milking job.
It would clean the udder, give it a nice massage and then the robot would stretch out four cups to cover each of the nipples. Even the cup size is automatically adjustable.
After milking, the cow would know when to step out and another cow, waiting in line, would then step into the cubicle.
All these processes took place with not a human in sight, except the audience on the mezzanine floor.
It was almost like stepping into Planet Cow.
Some distance away from the milking robot is a huge rotating brush like those at the car wash. Cows that need to be scratched would walk up to it and enjoy a good scratch!
All in all, it's a good life out there and these days, when I drink my coffee, I think of those cows living large in Inner Mongolia.
The writer can be contacted at email@example.com