Milking – Three Months In
outine is the saving grace with cows. They appreciate the same thing every day, at the same time, and in the same place. I’m kind of that way too. There are enough distractions these days, that a routine helps keep your mind right. It helps to have a sweet cow too Jane is an absolute dream to milk and work with twice a day. Besides being a patient provider for our family, she has been patient with us too when we have had to doctor her. When you have an animal that outweighs you by tenfold, it’s nice when they behave, and trust you.
As you can see in the photo above, Jane is going to the milking area without me doing anything but opening the gate for her. Because I have worked with her on this routine, she is paying me back by being predictable. Predictable is everything with livestock. Once you understand the psychology you can be in the driver’s seat. I have her calf and food that she only gets at milking time, so she has incentive to show up at the gate at milking time.
For the first few weeks bordering on a month, Jane wasn’t happy with the dogs taking part in the milking. This is normal, to push that boundary of protective cow versus wolf is inviting trouble. That meant we had to put up with yowling cats. Now cats have their place here, but it’s not near my milk buckets, so I am much happier with the dogs between the milk and cats. Now that Blake is much older, Jane does not care if the dogs are near her or Blake, and I know the dogs will guard the milk buckets.
Blake is my relief milker, nursing twice a day after I milk. No bottles for me to clean and wash, a halter trained calf with an intact flight zone and now that I am milking Jane on a 14/10 schedule, Blake can do the evening milking for me. Lately we have added rear-bagger lawn mower to Blake’s resumé. She is a good grazer, and needs to be kept separate from Jane, so most days find her tethered somewhere.
I share milk with my milk cow’s calf, but differently than most. My goal is to have ample milk for my needs (thus, a dairy breed), raise a healthy calf for meat or future cow, add no extra dishwashing chores, and have a relief milker. Most dairy cows don’t get to raise their calves, with the calf removed and fed with a bottle or bucket, and on the other end of the scale is people who leave the calf on the dairy cow and milk occasionally or once a day. None of those practices work for me because of many reasons.
Jane’s condition is taking some getting used to for me. It’s been a long time since I have had a bony dairy cow. She has reached her peak and is now gaining a little weight while still producing a shy 5 gallons of milk per day. This makes me feel a lot better, but I can see she will be a somewhat frail, and dependent cow.
Jane is hopefully (fingers crossed) bred to calve next June. We tried AI once and when she came back in heat the stars weren’t aligned very well for a second try at AI. The simplest solution was to turn her in with the beef bull who was here, did not have any vehicle problems and was happy to do the job… .
Now that I’ve been milking steady again for three plus months, it seems like I didn’t take two years off to wait for Jane to grow up and be a cow. Sometimes when I look at Jane I see a seasoned milk cow all grown up, and other times I catch a glimpse of her in her calf hood, looking like this.
Good job Jane!