Milk-Sharing: Milk a Dairy Animal without Removing the Baby


Baby Goat Nursing Goat Mother

Photo by Kade Ludlam

When we got our first dairy cow back in 2012, I knew that we wanted to leave her calf nursing while still getting to milk her for our own uses. There were several reasons for this, mostly based on time-management and ease for myself, plus a more natural life for the calf.

With five children to care for, homeschooling, and keeping our homestead, it would be very difficult for me to commit to twice-a-day milking. And feeding a bottle calf was more work than I cared to take on. Milk-sharing would give us the opportunity to milk just once a day, and even skip a milking if needed, while also giving the baby a better, more natural start to life. So, we decided to go with it, and we have successfully used the same method for eight years now to milk not only cows, but also goats and sheep, while leaving their babies with them.

Our Process for Milk-Sharing With Baby Livestock

Our first lambing of the year has recently occurred for our dairy sheep, Autumn, and we are beginning the milk-sharing process again with her and her ewe lamb. With Autumn, we have it pretty easy, because she had a single lamb. When we have had twins or triplets, we usually sell the extra babies as bottle babies so that we are only sharing milk with one. If the mother is a really great producer, it can still be possible to get what you need with twins on. Another option, were the situation and timing to be just right, would be to adopt over a twin to another mom that is not being milked.

It is important to manage the situation properly and be sure that the baby is getting enough milk to grow well. You will need to adjust how you are managing it and how much milk you are taking as you go and do what is best for your own situation and livestock. We milk in the mornings, but the method can easily be switched up to work for evening milking. Here are the basic guidelines of how we handle milk-sharing here at Willow Creek Farm.

Weeks 0 to 2

For the first few weeks, we allow the baby to live with mom full-time and do not separate them.  By about Day 5, we start some limited milking. We milk first thing in the morning, and are careful to be sure to leave some for the baby.

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