The Experiment

Sienna calved on June 7, 2018. That is an important date, because it means I have been milking her every day since that date. (Ok, yes, I took short breaks while she had the calf on her.) But, still, that is a very long nine months. I’m SO ready for a break, a real break. And I’m about to get one.

Milking by hand is a huge time commitment.

I always dry up my cow about three months before she is due to calf again. (For any city folk out there, “dry up” means stop milking the cow, so she will stop producing.) This rest is good for my milk cow. It lets her body recuperate and provide more nutrition toward the developing calf. Sienna is due in June again, so I plan to dry her up at the end of this month.

This year, I decided to experiment with her milk production a bit. I’ve read about a few other family milk cow owners who only milk their cows once a day. As with anything that is different from the norm, it sounded quite scandalous to me when I first heard about it. (Yes, I realize “scandalous” is an over-the-top word for this usage, but I never get to use that word. So it stays.) Anyhow, I tried switching to just once-a-day milking. And you know what? It worked.

I have to back up and explain why I originally was so uneasy at the idea of switching to once-a-day milking. There are two big reasons why you wouldn’t want to only milk once a day. The first reason is you will have a big fall in production. Usually, you want to get as much milk as possible from your cow. (All the dairies certainly do.)

The second reason is the health of your cow. If your cow is in full swing and producing three or more gallons of milk a day, she will certainly be quite uncomfortable if you suddenly switch to only milking her out once a day. Not only that, but you run the risk of her getting the dreaded mastitis. I put that in red, because mastitis is the nemesis of anyone in the dairy industry. It seems you’re always trying to prevent it, avoid it, treat it, or pray it doesn’t return.

Oh, just in case you don’t know, mastitis is an infection in the udder, usually caused by bacteria.

This time, as drying up nears, I feel I am in a good position to experiment, because neither of the two reasons above are a concern. I have been gradually trying to decrease Sienna’s production in anticipation of drying her up. I have her down to one gallon at each milking.

Last Thursday, I milked her in the morning and didn’t milk her again until Friday morning. She seemed a little tender and gave me a gallon and a half of milk. Saturday morning, tenderness was gone, and she gave me a gallon and a quart. Sunday morning, the same. A couple days later, same amount. She seems to have leveled off at the gallon and a quart and, best of all, no mastitis!

Very soon, I will stop milking her, so she can have her three-month break. But it should make it easier for her to dry up when her production is so low. Also, it’s good to know that if I wanted to keep her at once-a-day milking for a long period of time, it seems I can. It certainly is easier on my schedule. I’m sure it frees up Sienna’s schedule, too, but she hasn’t even thanked me.  


  1. Mandi, that blog was very informative regarding hand-milking. My Dad always used a machine. I don’t think that he milked more than once a day.

    Keep up the good work!

    Love you,
    Aunt Kathy


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