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Milking – Three Months In

September 7, 2012

Routine 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.

Milking time

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.

Cat Abatement Officer

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.

Relief Milker – Blake

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.

Share Milking – my way

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.

September 2012

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!

Are we done here?

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2012 8:28 pm

    She is beautiful. We are now waiting for our own calf, due sometime this week, and then back into the milking routine again. I keep having to remind myself that the early mornings (milking before work) are worth the bounty of milk! I will be relieved when the calf is here and we know everything is ok….. this is our first calf to be born on our property, but its our cow’s 4th, we are nervous first time calf parents!

    • September 7, 2012 8:33 pm

      Liz, how exciting! I don’t want to tell you that the jitters will go away – because they don’t! It’s like a new baby, once everyone gets settled in, things go pretty smooth, it’s just that first few weeks 🙂 Can’t wait to hear about the new addition 😀

  2. September 7, 2012 10:29 pm

    I love reading about Jane and how you are managing her milk production. Makes me think that having a production milk cow on our future property is actually within reach and can be done!
    These posts are so informative – thanks so much for taking the time to write them. It helps me think about my future farm plans!

  3. September 8, 2012 4:28 am

    What a great, interesting post! It sounds like she’s a good girl, and I applaud the way you’ve raised her and the baby.

  4. Mich permalink
    September 8, 2012 10:24 am

    I used to milk one of my Dexters and as she had too much milk for just the household needs, I used to let the calf suckle after I had finished milking. It was a system that worked well for me, the cow and her calf.

  5. September 8, 2012 12:34 pm

    Good post.. Hmm I might try that next time around with Daisy, she is such a good milker and has a lot of milk, (we are raising milk fed pigs too) her calf is on the bucket but in the stall next to her quite happily twice a day. Daisy has a huge udder and i have always worried about bruising with a dairy cow.. Your Jane is doing wonderfully you must be very proud of her. c

    • September 8, 2012 2:36 pm

      Ceciliag, it depends on the cow, you have a pretty good system with your milking machine. I milk by hand so it’s a little different, it’s nice to have a break once in a while. Does Daisy have a bad medial ligament? I thought I remembered seeing that or maybe I am thinking of a different cow, I look at so many blog photos of cows, it’s hard to remember. If the udder is strong with good ligaments, I don’t think a calf nursing would bruise the udder. Or at least I haven’t seen that to be the case. Jane’s mom nursed a lot of calves and her udder was in amazing shape for an old girl. Lots of that is genetics though. A friend had a Jersey first calf heifer that freshened with the udder of a culled cow, it was bad, and she was a beautiful cow too.

      We’ve been getting your hot weather – finally!!

      • September 10, 2012 11:35 am

        This is Daisy’s first calf, and my first milking cow. I was advised by her breeder not to share with the calf, so i went with it because I am a first timer and I do not know enough to know if something was going wrong until it had gone wrong, if you know what i mean. She milks almost 4 gallons twice a day if the grass is good, and thank goodness it is good now and i am not over stocked. Daisy is an Ayrshire and very tall. When i am a bit more confident in years to come i would like to try to share though, it seems more natural. Though Daisy is quite a headstrong bolshy cow, she might just refuse to give me any milk!! Thank you.. have fun in your garden today! celi

        • September 10, 2012 11:40 am

          Ceciliag, my goodness that is a lot milk! She is such a beautiful girl! They are funny too – they do hold up for a calf, and some cows do better if the calf doesn’t nurse and drinks from a bottle. There are lots of ways to get things accomplished, and it sounds like you’ve got it covered!

        • September 10, 2012 11:52 am

          So far we are doing great. No problems at all really and like you i am hoping she is bred, my vet (who is a friend thank goodness) will do a blood test in a few weeks.. c

  6. September 9, 2012 6:48 am

    I was amused by a NYTimes,com article that cows give healthier milk if they have names.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/opinion/sunday/kristof-where-cows-are-happy-and-food-is-healthy.html

    What the article doesn’t mention is how this happy farmer milks all his 230 happy, named cows in a happy, way. Twice a day.

  7. September 9, 2012 11:13 am

    She seems like such a sweet, quiet, trusting girl. She still looks girlish to me…

  8. September 10, 2012 7:02 am

    she is so pretty and you are so lucky to have the fresh milk.

  9. September 10, 2012 7:20 am

    Ugh. Bony dairy cow. I feel your pain. I want fat cows. But she bred back so…

    • September 10, 2012 7:27 am

      HFS, well maybe she is bred back…never know for sure until she misses a heat. I think she is though, the AI try was on a 100+ degree day, and it’s all timing you know…we’ll see.

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