I’m back to milking my family milk cow twice a day. I had it easy while the calf was still on her, but it was time to wean Clarabelle. She was three months old when I took her off Sienna. (I prefer to wean my calves at around 3 to 4 months old, before they get too big and rough on my milk cow.)
When Sienna’s calf is nursing, I can choose to milk or not. It gives me a lot more freedom. Usually, I milked a gallon each morning and let the calf do the rest. Seven gallons a week gave me enough to share with family that lives nearby. I’m now up to about 25 gallons a week. Sienna gives around 3.5 gallons a day.
Before weaning, my family took a trip. I have to time trips around my milk cow’s lactation cycle or vice versa. Now, I’m pretty much glued to the farm (morning and evening) until I decide to dry up Sienna. I always recommend having a back-up milker available in case you have to leave for some reason (or get sick, etc.) I am fortunate enough to have a couple of people I can call on for such circumstances. However, taking the time to milk almost two gallons out of a cow isn’t like running over to feed the cat or let the dog out. Not everyone has the ability or the time to do it.
The actual time spent milking is only a small part of the time commitment that comes with the milking routine. Much of my time is spent washing the containers, lids, jugs, filters, and bucket. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of coordination and rotation to make sure all the milk gets to its destination for use in a timely manner. I don’t have an unlimited amount of containers or space in my refrigerator. I have to keep the milk flowing (so to speak). When you factor in making dairy products and feed runs, that’s even more time. I joke with people that when I’m in this part of my cow’s cycle, it’s akin to having a part-time job: Milkmaid Mandi, at your service!
For about a week, when I first weaned Sienna’s calf, the two of them bellowed to each other from across the fence. One thing I quickly realized was that Sienna had been holding back from me while she nursed the calf. Once she realized that I wasn’t going to give her calf back, she fully let down her milk for me. That meant I had a larger supply, more cream, and stronger flow. It’s amazing to me that cows can hold back their supply and cream like that. It’s quite the talent. But we all have to be good at something.