The Cyclical Side of Milking

When you have a milk cow, there’s a constant cycle involved with making sure she stays in milk as long as possible. For my cow, that means she is either pregnant or has a calf on her (and sometimes both) all year round. 

Ollie visits with one of the Longhorn calves. He’s four months old now.

Right now, Sienna is about four and half months pregnant and has an adopted calf, Ollie, on her. As I have posted about before, I grafted Ollie onto Sienna after weaning her calf at the end of October. 

Compare this photo with the one above to see how much Ollie’s grown in just four months.

Most years, I don’t put an adopted calf onto my milk cow once I wean their calves, because I’m happy to have more milk. Once I wean their calves, I have to milk morning and evening, and I end up with between two to three gallons of milk a day. 

However, this year, knowing I was due to have a new baby in January, I decided I could not tackle all that milking on top of everything else. So, I brought home a Jersey calf to put on her. This worked out really well. Now, we only need to milk about three times a week, just enough to keep us in milk.

So, right now in her cycle, Sienna is close to the time I will dry her up. It’s recommended to give cows at least a two-month break from producing milk before they calf again. I give my milk cow a three-month break. That way her body can be using all the nutrition she gets for her and her pregnancy instead of using some to produce milk. 

At the end of March, I will dry up Sienna and wean Ollie. She will have a vacation during April, May, and June (and so will I), and then she is due to calf around the end of June/early July. Once that happens, she’ll be back to the start of her cycle, freshening for the new calf. I wait until the calf is three months old before having Sienna bred back again, continuing the cycle.

This is Marabelle, a Jersey/Black Angus mix.

Sienna’s calf from two years ago, Marabelle, is also pregnant. As I wrote about previously, this was an accident. I tried to separate her from the bull while he was here, but Marabelle jumped the fence to get in with him. I took Sienna and Marabelle to our vet on Dec. 20, to have them both checked. Both cows were bred. Marabelle should have her calf about a month after Sienna, around late July. 

My goal is to train Marabelle to be another milk cow that can be hand-milked. However, we’ll see if I have time to take on that project when the time comes. It would be difficult to have two cows to hand-milk every day.    

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