Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Get Good Results with OAD Milking

Ayla and Berretta this summer. Boy, I wish we were still in sundresses and the cows were that sleek! Now they look like a tame version of a wooly mammoth. Ayla would dress exactly like that even now if I let her. Anyway..................
I've mentioned before my new revelation this year---- minerals are monumentally important, and you really have to feed these cows. I have always had free choice access to pasture and hay 24/7 but in trying to conform my cows to a grassfed regime, I unwittingly underfed them. They have been bred to produce a good amount of very high quality milk, and they need proper feed.
All my heifers have been raised essentually grassfed and we now have 3 that are bred to coincide with spring grass growth, so we'll see how this generation does, but my original girls that came right out of a dairy need good groceries.
I'm a big fan of OAD ( Once A Day) milking for a couple of reasons. I did milk twice a day from May through November, and had my breeding goals worked out, we would have been drying off at Christmas, but alas, sometimes things do not work out. I am not a fan of combining winter with milking, with mucking stalls, with dragging ones children through snowbanks to the barn, and thawing out little frozen fingers in the bucket of udder wash water. I spend a lot of time outside in winter just getting all the animals fed, watered, barn cleaned etc. that it just gets to be a bit much with twice a day milking added in. I also do not believe in going against Nature, and trying to push production at a time when it should be waning and the animals bodies should be putting their food toward body maintenance as opposed to production.
Typically when you go to once a day, you really sacrifice production. Usually, not only am I fine with that, its usually the goal. But this year, I'd like to keep a moderate supply. I have cheese to make and loyal milk and cream customers. Production loss can be a decrease of 1/3 - 1/2 total production.
Here's my lightbulb moment. What if I continue to feed them their grain twice a day but only milk once a day? Amazingly, there is barely a drop in production, and the cows are looking really good. I'm talking only about 10% reduction. I can't believe I didn't think of that before. Probably everyone else figured that out, but I used to think, if you milk once a day--you feed their grain only once a day. Now, If you have a really fresh cow, only 2 months or less into lactation, you'll need to milk twice a day or sharemilk with a calf or two. I've already done that, and those 6 month old calves have just been weaned and sold. If I find a couple more healthy calves, I'll probably foster them on and sharemilk with those, and after a 12 hour seperations still milk the cows once a day. It's my solution for those frigid, short days of winter.

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