Three weeks ago, the heavens opened, angels sang, gold rained down from the clouds, and life as we knew it was perfect. Lyle was born.
Aww. Hello, Lyle. So thankful to have you here, my dear little one. Such a long, long time we waited for you. So many “dates” with Hiro, the bull. So many prayers. So many days. And here you are. You smug little thing.
There are multiple reasons that I'm thankful for Lyle, the first of which is most likely the obvious: MILK.
Yes, to answer your question before you ask, cows must have babies to produce milk. Just like humans. Ideally, a dairy cow would produce a calf each year. This would be enough to keep her in milk for 9 months of the year, the last 3 months would be ‘dry' months where she wasn't producing any milk in preparation for calving. 9 months on. 3 months off. 1 calf a year.
Of course, that's under ideal circumstances.
Dairy cows are notoriously hard to breed and can take months to actually settle. But we're not focusing on that today – cow fertility is not the topic of conversation. But the milk cow is!
Milk Cow: How To Milk Once A Day
The second reason that I'm extremely thankful for Lyle is the fact that he's my built in milker. That is, I really only have to milk once a day! For the rest of the time, he does the milking for me. There are a few methods to once-a-day milking:
1. Leave The Calf On 24/7.
This is what we are currently doing, at least for the time being. Lyle is still small enough that he's not taking all she's got, which means there's still plenty left for us in the bucket each morning. We waddle down (I say waddle because in the morning, my bones are still stiff and I'm usually in sweat pants) to the barn at about 5:15 to milk. She gives us between 1.5-2.5 gallons each morning. Lyle is left on her all day – freely drinking as he wishes. Drink, Lyle, drink! Grow, baby, grow!
PROS – I don't have to worry about separating, providing separate waters, and monitoring their interactions.
CONS – Sal reserves most of the cream for Lyle. I don't know how she does it, but she does. The boy's drinkin' my butter.
2. Separate The Calf Every 12 Hours.
This is what we'll most likely need to do as Lyle starts eating more, because let's face it, I want that cream. We will separate them overnight (12 hours ‘off'), milk in the morning, and then put them back together during the day (12 hours ‘on'). Either way, you're still only having to milk once a day. And booya.
PROS – More milk, possibly more cream.
CONS – Having the constantly separate the two, which means you need separate, safe housing for both.
Perks of Once A Day Milking
Whatever method you chose to utilize for once a day milking, there are still some major perks to a family milk cow. And to once a day milking.
For starters, you don't have to bottle feed the calf because it will still be nursing. Bottle feeding is fun! For 5 seconds. No thank you.
For seconds, you don't have too much milk. Yes, there is such a thing. While we loved being able to utilize our extra milk last year for fattening our pigs, because we're hand milking, it was a labor of love to provide the pigs with such a luxury. I'd gladly do it again when Lyle is weaned and we're in excess again, but for now, I'm happy to keep the milk we worked hard for ourselves.
For thirds, you can leave for a day or two if need-be. Remember? You've got a built in milk machine! How amazing is that! Because dairy cows are bred to produce so much milk, I wouldn't want to leave for more than a couple of days for fear of mastitis (it's a great feeling to completely strip them out of all their milk!). Regardless, we can skip a milking now if something comes up and that's HUGE.
Last year, a few hours after delivering Will, Stuart had to leave me in the recovery room to run home to the farm and milk Sal. Not ideal. Wish we would've had a calf then…
There are most certainly pros and cons to once a day milking, but right now for us, the pros totally outway the cons. Like, totally man. I'm stockin' up on wonderful pastured butter from elsewhere (instead of making my own for the time being) and have enjoyed the extra time in the gardens during this crazy, bountiful time of year.
And by crazy, bountiful… I mostly mean crazy.
And by crazy, I mean that I currently have two escaped rabbits and a gangster duck in my garden.
More posts on Cows:
- The Real Anatomy of a Cow
- How to Tell When a Cow Will Calve
- Cheesemaking: The Basics
- Buttermilk: The Superfood
- How to Make Butter