Overcoming Problems When Milking a Cow

| 4/7/2014 5:59:00 PM

Tags: dairy cows, milking, Ohio, Mary Lou Shaw,

Dutch Belted calfWe milk our six Dutch Belted cows seasonally and usually stop by late autumn. By the time the first spring calf is born, we are delighted to again have fresh milk. The first mother this year, Connie, is a cow who was allowed to nurse her first calf and not share her milk with us. This year, she freshened a month before the next cow was due and we were eager to have her milk. She was just as sure that she didn’t want to share it. Thus, the milking season began with a conflict!

We thought we had the upper hand because it was easy to entice her into the stall. Even bribing her to put her head into the stanchion with carrots and apples went well. We were congratulating ourselves before we realized that there was a contest yet to be won.

The first trick Connie used was to simply hold her milk when we milked her. She only danced a bit when we washed, dipped and expressed milk from each teat. The calf was often at her side and she seemed pretty calm for this new experience. We didn’t realize she was already a pro.

I hand-milked, but even when her udder felt full, I would get only three to four cups for all my effort. There can be some edema in the bag the first few days, and we were patient. However, she was more patient and simply wouldn’t let us have her calf’s milk.

Friends who have an organic dairy suggested we use oxyocin (Pitocin) injections to make her let-down her milk. That didn’t feel right for our homestead for a couple of reasons. First, we want her to come willingly into the stall and stanchion, and sticking her each time with a needle when she cooperates seems counterproductive. Secondly, using even short-acting hormones doesn’t feel like what we want to do to this old-breed cow.

Our solution instead was to use warm soaks on her udder. We previously learned that washing the udder and teats with water can cause mastitis. Therefore, I attempted to warm-pack only the upper part of her bag while using a downward massaging motion.

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