Milk Supply Slacking

How much milk your family milk cow produces depends a lot on how much, how often, and what you feed her. I’ve found there to be a direct correlation between the amount of feed Sienna eats and her milk supply. 

Sienna’s milk production drops as we reduce her feed.

Lately, Sienna’s supply has been dwindling. My son, who has been milking her for me for the past two months, seemed puzzled by this. I expected it. Why? Well, as you might have guessed, it’s because Sienna’s not getting her usual daily ration of feed. 

Usually, while in milk, Sienna is fed every morning and evening. This keeps her production at a good level, about three gallons a day. Currently, Sienna only gets fed when she’s separated from her calf and when she’s being milked. This ends up being only about six feedings a week instead of 14. Obviously, that’s going to lower her production.

I’ve found that the surest way to increase production is to give more high-protein feed. The big dairies have this down to a science, knowing exactly what and how much to feed each cow to get the most milk out of it. I’m not so scientific. But, I do have my own system that seems to work for me. 

I give my milk cow alfalfa pellets as part of her food regiment.

The high-protein feed I use includes 20 percent protein cubes and alfalfa pellets. I also feed Sienna some alfalfa hay. She is close to the time I’m going to dry her up, so I don’t want to amp up her production. It’s actually quite the opposite. I want Sienna’s milk supply to be low, so she’ll dry up easier, faster, and with less of a chance of her contracting mastitis. “Low” production for Sienna is about a gallon and a half a day. By contrast, when she first freshens, she can produce upwards of four gallons a day. I never need her supply that high, so I don’t try to feed enough to keep her at that level.

Our cows go through plenty of hay bales through the fall and winter.

Besides feed, the other necessities for a milk cow include water, good-quality hay, minerals (including salt), and, of course, grass to graze. We have enough grass in the warm weather months that we don’t need to feed hay then, but it’s a definite must here in the cold months.

In short, if you want your cow to produce more milk, feed her more high-quality feed and hay. The more nutrients she receives, the more milk she’ll supply. Other factors that can affect her supply include how often she is milked, her breed, and how long it’s been she since has calved. I’ve even found that sometimes drastic weather changes can affect production. Anyway, for milk cows, instead of the old adage, “You are what you eat,” we could say, “You milk out as much as you put in.”

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