For the next few weeks, we will be releasing previous posts from the old website.
Once a Day Milking…vs Twice a Day Milking
By Ellen, 1/30/10
There is a lot more involved in milking animals than just… milking. In order to have a clean operation, a lot of straining and chilling of milk is involved, as well as plenty of dish washing and laundry! If a farmer milks twice a day (most farmers do), everything used (buckets, strainers…) has to be washed twice a day. When we first got our goats (we didn’t get a dairy cow until later), we milked twice a day. Assuming that was the only way to do it, we often experienced unpleasant deja vu as we were heading down to the barn in the afternoon for the second milking of the day- “We JUST did this!” Eventually, we figured out that milking twice a day, while it has its benefits, to be sure, was unnecessary in our application. Once a day milking was so much better.
We milk our own dairy animals so we can provide our family with the milk we need; for drinking, baking, and making cheese, yogurt, and butter. That is our goal. We aren’t selling milk to get maximum profits… therefore, we don’t feel that we have to push to “get the maximum amount of milk this cow is possible of giving!” Some of the commercial dairies are now milking even three times per day, in order to get maximum yield. This is surely hard on the animals, and it’s hard on the farmers, too! For us, milking once a day provides us with plenty of milk for our family. Getting back the time we’d lose if we were milking twice a day is more important to us than getting more milk.
Additionally, it is too demanding for a cow to be milked 2-3 times per day, AND provide milk for her calf/kid/lamb. For people who milk twice a day and are keeping it all, the baby animal must be housed separately from its mom and be fed milk replacer. We wanted to let our dams raise their kids/calves; then we wouldn’t have to bother with bottle-feeding the babies. We think it is great for the moms to feed their young, but we wanted some milk, too- that’s why we had the animals in the first place. Once a day milking is the perfect solution.
The process is simple: Every night, we stable the babies away from their mothers (usually in a stall when they’re little, and in a separate pasture with other animals as they get bigger). If they stayed with their dams all the time, there wouldn’t be much milk for us! In the morning, after milking, we release the babies to their moms and put everyone out in the pasture for the rest of the day. At night, we put the babies away again. They get the day milk, so to speak, and we get the night milk. However, we do not start this separation schedule on day one. At first, we let the dam/babies have at least several whole days after the baby(s) are born together (with no milking); so the babies have all the colostrum and milk they want. Then, we do start milking the moms each morning (sometimes each evening, too, if we want to increase her supply) while the babies are still allowed to stay w/their mom. Depending on the weight and health of the baby, and the temperature outside, we may start to separate each baby at night at about 1 week of age…sometimes not until 2 weeks, or even longer if the baby is born in the heart of winter (some babies are so little and it is just too cold). We make our best judgment call. The key is starting to milk the dam when the baby is about 2-3 days old, so her body is “signaled” for a greater demand of milk right away.
When we made the switch to once a day milking, we were amazed! We felt so much more free! An added benefit is that if we go on a trip during milking season, we can just leave the baby animal with it’s dam 24/7 if we need to do that. If it is early in the freshening period, the person taking care of the animals may still have to do some milking, but the calf/kid will take care of most of the milking. Later in the season, when the production is less, the older calf/kid will usually be able to take care of the milking, especially if it is only a one or two day break.
For us, the pros outweigh the cons on this farmsteading concept, because “balance” is very important to our family. As it is, we spend about 45-60 minutes per day on milking/milk handling/washing milking, and that would be doubled if we milked twice a day.
Here’s a quick preview of our actual milking process:
We milk in the morning, just because it works better for our schedule. We have also found animals to be very routine-oriented (especially our grumpy cow, Keery!), so we picked a set time of day. As you can see, if you’ve read Tyler’s blogs, the morning is also when we do most of our animal chores. Before we go outside to feed everything, mom or I will go down to our milk handling area in the basement (we’ve got a sink and counters down there. It’s a help to have a separate area for all the milk stuff, so it’s not slowing the regular kitchen down). In the basement, we “gather up the milking supplies”. This means we get a milking bucket for the cow, a quart jar and a milk holding pail for the goats, a wash bucket for the udders, and various rags and towels. While we,are there, we set up two half-gallon jars under the quart-size strainers, and put two frozen water bottles in our milk chilling tank (a medium size cooler for us!). (The faster the milk chills after being milked from the animal, the longer it will stay fresh tasting and good. )
After getting everything ready, we lug it all to the barn and set it on our table that we use for getting feed ready, etc. When we are ready to milk, the first goat is let out to be milked (they go one at a time because we just have one goat stanchion.) Keery, the cow, gets put in her cow stanchion.
After milking, one of us takes the milk buckets/jars back to the house and strains, labels, and chills the milk. Back at the barn, the dams and babies get reunited for the day.
Once a day milking has worked very well for us. It’s a huge time saver; it makes having our own dairy animals doable, even though we are super busy! We get plenty of milk without feeling like all we ever do is milk/handle milk.
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