How Long Do Domesticated Cows Live?

Domestic cows are predominantly kept as livestock for dairy and beef. 

Some people also keep them as companion animals and pets. 

If you are thinking of adding some cows to your farm or household, you may wonder how long domesticated cows live. 

Without intervention, domesticated cows have a lifespan of about 15-20 years. Beef cattle are usually slaughtered at 1.5-2 years, while breeding cattle and dairy cows are culled at around 6 years of age. Dairy and beef cattle are killed once their productivity and usefulness are up.

With so many reasons to keep cattle around, it makes sense how people wonder how long these useful animals will live. 

We have everything you need to know about how long domesticated cows live. 

how long do domesticated cows live

What Is The Natural Lifespan Of A Cow?

The natural lifespan of domestic cattle is 15-20 years. 

Modern cattle on farms typically do not reach this lifespan as they are culled earlier on once their most productive years are up. 

Cows kept for human consumption, whether through dairy farming or beef farming, do not live their full lifespan. 

Wild cattle will live up to 26 years, assuming no disease or predator ends their life early. 

Some people keep cows as pets and companion animals rather than for human consumption. 

In these cases, the pet cows or companion cows will live much longer than if they were kept for milk production or beef production. 

How Long Do Beef Cattle Live?

Cattle meat production is focused on making profits. 

The timing for slaughtering and butchering beef cattle is based on their growth rate, size, and age. 

Regarding cattle meat production, the beef cattle will be slaughtered once their growth slows down. 

This is usually about 1.5-2 years old, with veal calves having an even shorter lifespan.

Related: How much does it cost to butcher and process a cow?

After this, they are not growing as much, and the cost of feed and space they take up is not profitable when you are focused on running a prosperous cattle meat production farm.

While it depends on the breed of cow, domesticated cattle reach their prime slaughtering age or market weight very young. 

Modern-day cattle will live significantly longer if not slaughtered, but it doesn’t make financial sense to let them live their full lives. 

The consumption of cattle beef is very popular in the United States. 

This means cattle meat production farms must keep up with the demand. 

They make significantly more money if they slaughter beef cows before cattle feeding starts to cut into their profits. 

Related Reading: The cost of raising calves.

How Long Do Dairy Cattle Live?

Dairy farming is a prosperous means of making money for dairy farmers. 

Dairy products are very popular in the United States. 

The cows used for dairy industries will be slaughtered at 6 years of age. 

While it depends on the productivity span of specific dairy breeds, this is typically when they start to produce less milk which means fewer dairy products.

Milking and artificial insemination for continuous dairy production takes a toll on the dairy cows’ bodies. 

This also shortens their average lifespan. 

As the cows reach the end of their milk production yield, their milk yield starts to decline. 

If you don’t get enough milk per cow, it makes more financial sense to slaughter them and replace them with younger female calves to increase the yield of milk produced on your farm. 

The more gallons of milk per cow you produce, the more prolific your milk production will be and the more money your dairy production farm makes. 

Related: What happens if you don’t milk a cow?

What Diseases Do Cows Die From?

If you are not concerned with the gallons of milk per cow on your farm, you’ll likely wait to slaughter your female cows to reach longer lifespans. 

Domesticated animals typically have longer lifespans than their wild ancestors because of decreased disease threats and natural predators. 

While livestock animals have a significantly shorter lifespan than their feral cattle ancestors because of culling, the expectancy of cattle could reach up to 20 years if they are well cared for.

Most breeds of cattle kept on farms are vaccinated against common bovine diseases. 

These include: 

  • Bluetongue
  • Botulism
  • Bovine Tuberculosis
  • Bovine Viral Diarrhea
  • Brucellosis
  • Mad Cow Disease
  • Foot And Mouth Disease
  • Johne’s Disease

These diseases affect the production of milk and even cattle temperament. 

Sick or diseased cows will become lethargic, and it may even increase the aggressiveness of cattle on the farm. 

Proper cattle feeding, vaccinations, and clean living environments are vital to helping cattle stay safe from diseases and poor health. 

Some breeds of cattle are more resistant to disease and infections. 

These cattle types are significantly less likely to fall ill to common bovine diseases. 

Many dairy farmers and livestock owners will opt for more disease-resistant cattle types to protect the herd. 

Once one cow gets sick, the risk of animal exposure to disease from the rest of the herd is drastically increased.

How Do Cows Die In The Wild?

While those breeds of cattle kept on farms and ranches are killed earlier, there is still the question of how long feral cattle live in the wild. 

The entry of cattle into the domesticated world introduced many factors not faced by feral cattle in the wild. 

Farm grain-fed cattle do not face the same diseases and predators as wild and feral cattle. 

However, they have a shorter lifespan overall. 

Cows in the wild face many of the same risks as domesticated animals. 

Like livestock animals, they risk respiratory and digestive problems, complications while birthing a newborn calf, and predators. 

One major difference is how farm cattle types are vaccinated against common diseases and infections. 

On the other hand, the wild cattle types won’t face slaughtering. 

The predators responsible for cattle deaths in domesticated and wild settings are similar. 

Depending on the region and the natural predators living there, cows face threats from: 

  • Bears
  • Coyotes 
  • Wolves
  • Cougars 
  • Bobcats 
  • Lynx 
  • Vultures

The predator consumption of cattle is a threat to both domesticated and wild cattle. 

Assuming the wild cattle are not killed by predators or disease, they will live for 15-20 years. 

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Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

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