The benefits of having fresh milk in the kitchen are many, but the challenges of milking a cow twice daily are real. I run a full-time publishing business and manage a 60 acre farm, and handle milking in the following way:
1. Keep the Calf with the Mother
Dairy farms separate calves from their mothers at birth and then bottle-feed the calves in pens. Remember, these are dairy farms and those folks are milking cows full-time as their primary business. This is not necessary on a family farm and, I’d argue, not beneficial for farm owners with other work to do.
There are several benefits of keeping a calf with its mother. First, the calf has free access to its food. Second, the mother and calf are not stressed by separation. Third, the calf keeps the mother in milk. Fourth, whenever you can’t milk, the calf keeps Mom fresh.
2. Separate the Calf at Night
When I do evening chores on the farm (or a little earlier), I separate the calf into a stall next to the mother’s pen in the barn. The calf is no longer able to nurse, but they are close enough together to not stress the cow or the calf. I give the cow (not the calf) a scoop or two of dairy cow feed in a bowl in her pen at this time. Overnight, the mother’s udders fill up, preparing for a morning milking.
3. Milk in the Morning
I milk our cow in the morning, around 9am, after I’ve finished some early morning office work and had morning prayer with my family. The time may vary slightly–I don’t care about that. I bring a cow with a full udder into the milk room and take what I can get. One of the boys feeds the cow 2-3 scoops of dairy feed, little by little, while I milk her–the longer I take, the more she gets fed.
Note: As for feed, I use the cow’s poop to judge how much grain to feed. If poop gets runny, there’s too much grain and/or not enough grass/hay. Adjust her feeding, give her a few days to adjust, and see if things improve. Poop should be able to be picked up with a fork.
4. Let the Calf Spend the Day with Mom
After milking, I put the cow out to pasture and let her calf out of its stall. The calf then strips whatever milk I may have left behind and, over the course of the day, gets his fill. He also keeps a heavy demand on Mom for milk, which benefits me each morning.
With this once-daily milking with the calf drinking daily, we get a good serving of fresh milk in the house and our calves receive the best possible feeding with their mothers. For us, with all of our responsibilities considered, this is a win-win situation. If something comes up and I can’t milk on a certain morning–it’s not a big deal. I just tell one of the boys to let the calf out with Mom and we’re fine.
Michael Family Farm