Keeping a Family Milk Cow Equals a Part-time Job

Various containers line my counter for milk storage.

(Editor’s Note: I now have a Memoirs of a Milkmaid YouTube channel. There are four videos on it so far, and I plan to add more. Click here to check out the channel.)

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.) 

Sienna’s calf, Clarabelle, is old enough to wean.

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. 

To the brim: My two-gallon bucket is almost full after one milking.

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!

Mother and daughters: Sienna greets Marabelle and Clarabelle from across the fence.

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. 

2 comments

    • Thank you for taking the time to post this. My husband and I are hoping to have a milk cow, Lord willing, and these are the kinds of things onw will have to keep in mind. For milking I’ve been looking at the Udderly Ez milking system. Maybe it seems expensive at first but i thought it would be helpful in clean capturing the milk more efficiently and the milk could be stored right in the jugs in which it was collected. But i guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Thanks again for sharing. And your cows and milk are beautiful!

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