Lately, I’ve been milking once a week more often than once a day because I’ve been traveling so much. this is mostly a recycled post from a few years ago. I’ve changed some practices and beliefs based on conversations with other dairy-people.
The bull is generally in the field with the cows and calves. The temperament of the Milking Devon bulls raised in a herd isn’t aggressive. At HineSite Farm calves will be born spread from spring to fall. The staggered birthdays make it harder to pair up same-sex teams to grow into oxen, but it’s easier to find time to work with calves and first fresheners (first-time moms) – and to deal with all the milk.
Stage of lactation (how many weeks or months the cow has been giving milk) is a big deal, cows’ milk production peaks about 8 weeks “fresh” meaning after calving. Very young calves don’t drink as much or as fast as older calves, but they do best when they get milk more often. Right after giving birth the momma-cow makes a special milk called colostrum that gives passive antibodies to the calf. When the regular milk starts and the colostrum is all consumed, I often get close to 2 gallons per milking.
Later in lactation, the babies are separated from the moms for half a day. “Half a day” can be anywhere from 6 to 14 hours. I am so glad Devons have not heard that milking must be at rigid times and equal intervals, that just couldn’t happen here.
Another factor in milk production is diet. Forage – grass and hay and occasional vegetables make up the cows’ diet. I sometimes add alfalfa in the form of pellets, hay or silage. (I do use a dairy pellet if I am feeding young calves that don’t have fully developed rumens. Milk production in most cows is limited by their diet. Some cows are unable to slow their production to protect themselves from loss of body condition through milk production. Cows like that have to be fed concentrated feeds to remain healthy. Fortunately, the Milking Devon still has the ability to match her production to her diet.