There are many different ways to set up a milking routine. When you have your own family milk cow, you can create your routine around whatever works best for you.
Although one of the most common ways to do a milking routine is by milking morning and evening (about 12 hours apart), this routine is obviously very restrictive for the milker. You have to make sure you are actually present every morning and evening to milk. Plus, that’s a lot of milk to use. This twice-a-day routine is what I usually do after I wean a calf from my milk cow. I have a different plan this year.
I’m going to explain the usual cycle, so my plan makes sense. After a three-month period where my cow is dry, she gives birth to a calf. When she first comes into milk, she produces a lot more than the calf will drink. I have to milk her twice a day while the calf is on her just to keep her comfortable. This lasts about two weeks. Then the calf starts drinking enough that I only have to milk once a day. At this point, I still leave the calf with its mama full time.
At around six weeks old, the calf drinks so much that if I want a whole gallon when I milk, I have to separate the calf for a 12-hour period. I feel it’s a waste of my time to go out to milk and not get a full gallon. Since we have separate paddocks, I simply put Sienna in a different paddock from her calf at around 7 p.m. and then milk her at around 7 a.m. the next morning. I only milk a gallon from her and then put Sienna back in with her calf, Seven-Up, so he can finish any remaining milk. Seven-Up acts like he’s starving the way he latches on. Of course, he’s not at all lacking for milk. Sienna gives around three gallons a day now. So, my calf is still getting two gallons a day, which is more than enough. He’s just greedy. And, of course, if I don’t milk, Seven-Up gets the full three gallons!
This part of the milking cycle, where the calf will take all the milk if I leave them together, is the best part. This means that I don’t have to milk at all if I don’t want to, but yet I can still get milk whenever I do want it. It gives me a lot more freedom in my schedule. I can actually go on trips!
Usually, during this part of the cycle, I separate the calf every evening and milk every morning, but not this year. This year I’m trying to make it easier on myself, because I’m pregnant. Thus, I’m only milking about four times a week. This means I can’t share the milk with as many people, since I’m only getting four gallons a week, but it does make for easy milking. Plus, four gallons a week is still plenty for my family. If I decide I want more, I can make that happen. I enjoy the flexibility.
In October, my family has a vacation planned. It’s nice to know I have Seven-Up to do my milking for me while I’m gone.
I will add here that I still keep up with Sienna’s feedings. If I want her production to stay high, I have to keep giving her feed.
When we get back from vacation, Seven-Up will be four months old. That’s about the age (between three and five months) that I usually wean my calves. My plan at that point is to buy another calf to put on Sienna. It may take a couple of days of hard work to get Sienna to accept the new baby, but it will be worth it. Then I can continue with my easy milking routine. And, more importantly, the calf can take over during my maternity leave.