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We brought home our first milk cow in 2012. When she freshened, I dutifully began milking her twice a day.
After all–that’s what you have to do, right?
Then I learned about once a day milking. I took the plunge, and discovered I LOVED milking even more. Freeing up the evenings was an amazing experience.
Except I was still bottle feeding the baby calves. And I was pretty much tied to the farm during milking season.
This milking season, we’ve taken an overnight trip and I’ve skipped several milking sessions with no consequences.
By using shared milking.
I first read about shared milking over on Chickens in the Road. In that post, Suzanne described an “optional” milking season.
I’ve been thinking about shared milking for a long time. This year, I took the plunge.
Our calves are now doing a lot of my milking. They haven’t had a single bottle yet.
Time saved? Absolutely!
I’ve been milking for several years now, so what made me change?
Well, as the kids get older, life is getting busier. We want to purposefully build memories with the kids. Did you know that Jayme is already 14? We only have a few precious years left.
I don’t want to spend all of those years tied to the farm. We have many trips we want to take, things we want to do, and memories we want to build.
But, I love having milk and knowing that we’re raising our own meat each year. Such cost savings right there–for highly nutritious food!
Since I’ve never considered myself a conventional farmer, I’ve been open to new ways of doing things. Including how to milk a cow!
Also, Maggie has turned into a worthless milk cow for me. She sucks her own milk. I don’t get any of hers.
So if I had to feed both calves from Annie’s milk, I wouldn’t actually get any. I’d be doing a lot of work just to feed the babies. Something that both my cows are doing a good job at.
See why I was eager to try something new?
Owning a Milk Cow with Shared Milking
So what exactly is shared milking, and what does it look like?
Here’s my basic definition:
Shared milking is when I take some of my cow’s milk, and allow her calf to take the rest.
She raises her calf. I get milk for the family.
Here’s How We Do It
Every evening, I bring Maggie and both calves in from the pasture. I lock them up in a holding pen.
I tried leaving Maggie out–but she started sucking on Annie so that arrangement had to end!
Once those three are locked up for the night, I turn Annie back onto the pasture.
Overnight, she fills up with milk. In the morning, I bring her into the milking parlor and give her some grain.
I wash her teats and start milking. I take all of the milk from two teats. I’m currently getting just over a gallon a day from just two teats!
While Annie’s still in a stanchion, I let Maggie and the two babies back onto the pasture. Then I set Annie free.
Bolt, her calf, runs right over and starts nursing the two teats I left. He has free access to his mama all day long. Then at night, I lock him back up.
Our calves are getting so big on this method!
I love seeing the baby calves and mama cows out on the pasture together. The two steer calves run all over the place, with way more room than they ever have had in a pen.
This is a busy mom’s method of owning a milk cow, let me tell you.
If I ever don’t want to milk, or we want to get away, I just either lock all four cows up at night, or leave them all out on the pasture.
Bolt takes care of the milking for me. I enjoy extra time with the family.
Here’s My Plan for the Remainder of the Milking Season
I plan on turning our bull out in June to do his duties. I don’t think there’ll be a problem with him and the calves. I see bulls running with calves all the time! But, I’ll definitely keep a close eye on them just in case.
When the calves are about six months old, I’ll bring them in for weaning. Our pasture will be drying up about that time anyways.
I’ll give Maggie “Tomorrow” treatment to dry her up at the same time.
I’ll keep milking Annie, but only in the morning. I’ll just move from milking two teats to milking all four.
In November, I’ll dry her up too and enjoy a winter without milking.
My routine will start again next March with a new set of calves.
Let me tell you–shared milking has changed everything I ever thought I knew about owning a milk cow. It’s way more family friendly than what I was doing before!
Do you have a milk cow? Have you ever tried shared milking? I’d love to hear your experiences!