Do you dream of a refrigerator stocked full of homemade butter, cheese, and chocolate milk? Do you hope to supply the milk needs of not just your own family, but your neighbors’ and friends’ families as well? If so, let me first say, “I get it.” Secondly, you’ll be glad to know that, while some factors effecting maximum milk and cream production are just totally out of your hands, there are a few things you can do to get as much milk as possible out of your dairy cow. Here are some things that contribute to the amount of milk and cream you’re getting, and how to maximize when you can.
- A young cow won’t produce as much as she will when she gets older and has had more calves. However, with age and calving will come an increase in production, up to a point. By the time your cow is five or six years old, you’ll likely have a pretty good idea of how much milk you’ll get out of her for the majority of her remaining milking years. So if you’re milking your three year old, and wishing for more, be patient because chances are very good you’ll be getting what you wish for in the next year or two.
- It may go without saying, but if you’re sharing your milk with a nursing calf, you won’t be getting the maximum amount of milk. Some people opt to use two dairy cows, one as a nurse cow that takes on the newborn calves, and the other as their personal dairy cow, so that they never have to share. I’ve never done it this way; it’s all in how you choose to run your farm. Another way that calves effect your milking, is that they are getting at least as much cream as you are, and probably more. So once you wean the calf, you can expect to double the amount of cream you’re use to getting, and possibly even more than that!
- Giving your cow about a gallon of mixed grains during milking will help you to get the most out of her. If you’re like us, and want to avoid GMO’s, finding a feasible sweet-feed mix will likely be difficult, if not impossible. I live near a local feed mill, which allows me the option of choosing my grains individually, so for my feed mixture, I use alfalfa pellets, alfalfa meal, barley, and oats. If you’re able to find molasses sold in bulk, you could use it to mix up your own sweet feed, but even without it, we get plenty of milk and cream out of our Jersey to keep a rolling stock of butter and an endless supply of milk.
- Milking Schedule. To get the most milk possible, consistency is absolutely necessary. Keep the same hours as much as possible, and don’t skip any days. If you skip a milking, the effects are almost immediate. With time, you can work your cow back up to her normal production, unless you’ve skipped multiple milkings in a short amount of time. Also, to maximize output, milking twice a day is necessary. It won’t double the amount of milk you get compared to milking once a day, but it will give you between 50% and 75% more. If you’re like me, and you’re content with how much milk you get out of your morning milking, then milking only once a day is just fine for the cow.
- The seasons effect production. During the spring and summer months, you can expect to get far more milk and cream than what you’ll get during the fall and winter months. And this is all due to the abundance of fresh, constantly growing grass. Once the grass stops growing, which for us here in northeast Alabama is some time during mid-September, you’ll see a dramatic drop in production. For example, this year my young Jersey milk cow was producing 1 ½ gallons a day during her morning milking at the start of September. By the end of September, I was getting right at ½ gallon from her morning milking. I just prefer college football games over the extra ¾ gallon of milk I’d be getting from an evening milking…Roll Tide!!