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sharing milk with a calf

 
Robin Downing
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Hello everyone. We are considering getting Dexter cattle to raise beef and for milk. Once the calf is born, how does one manage to share the milk with the calf and the family without bottle feeding? I have done this successfully with goats before, but goats are weaned at 2 months old (about) and I did not keep the kids around as the goats were strictly for milk. I don't know what kind of time table to use for the cattle. Leave the calf in with Momma full time for how many days? still milk her twice a day? When to seperate them for part of the day? Day or night seperation? When is the calf weaned? Could I teach the calf to drink from a bucket (not one with a nipple) and just pour it's share in the bucket? Any help here would be greatly appreciated.
 
Adam Klaus
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hi Robin, glad to hear you are thinking about a dual purpose milk cow-
What we do with our dual purpose Brown Swiss cows, is first of all, only milk once a day. this is sane for the farmer, easier on the cow, and leaves milk for the calf. It is critical to not feed grain with once a day milking, otherwise the grain will push the cow's production too high, and udder problems will result. The combination of grass only, and once a day is a real gem for the farmer.

Cow and calf are together 24hrs a day for a week. Then we seperate cow and calf first thing in the morning, milk in the evening, and then reunite the cow and calf afer evening milking. The calf is fine for the day by itself, and gets to drink milk all night. We do this sorting routine for two months. Then we wean the calf completely, and put the calf on excellent quality clover pasture. If your pasture is not excellent, you would not be able to wean so young. But we have found that two months is adequate so long as the pasture is excellent. Seasonal calving makes a lot of sense in this regard, as the calves are born in May, and weaned in July when the clover is top quality.

Bucket feeding is a possibility, though the calf doesnt always cooperate with the learning process. We have found that it is more hassle than its worth, and dont do it anymore. Bucket feeding definitely needs to use a nipple. Without a nipple, the calf gulps the milk too fast, not mixing in enough saliva, and indigestion and bad health are the result.

Hope this gives you some ideas, I am happy to talk cows all day. Love those milkin' mommas. good luck!

 
Tammy Blazin
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Just brought my pregnant Jersey back from the bull. Now I need to set up my place to make the milking easy. I want to milk once a day and found this post very useful. My question is this. Do you need to bring the calf in with the cow when you milk? If so, how do you arrange that in the barn? I have a very nice 6 stall horse barn that I want to use for milking. The stalls are 12x12 and the walls between them are heavy boards stacked into a track. Some boards could be removed to make a short wall or, I could probably put some spacers in to make a fence type wall that a calf could see through. I have never milked before and neither has my heifer so this could be interesting. Any ideas would be appreciated.
 
M Turf
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Location: Southeast Michigan
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I don't have the farm yet, but i had entertained something along these lines but only separating them once a week because i don't need fresh milk every day. Can it be done once a week instead? Keeping them together the other 6 days?
 
Adam Klaus
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Tammy-
I find it easier if the cow cant see the calf when you milk. The way I like to do it, is to milk the cow, and then reunite her with her calf afterwards as a reward. If the calf can see the cow, it will often bawl, which will distress the cow, which isnt good for her milk let down. So I like to keep them seperate during milking, to keep things more peaceful for everyone involved.

Routine is your best friend with milking. Go slow, be purposeful, and do exactly the same thing every time. Be patient. If things arent going right, walk away, come back after ten minutes, and do the same thing again. Repeat until the cow figures out what you want her to do. The training of a heiffer is critical. In my herd, I have the heiffers in the barn with the dairy cows for a few weeks before calving, so that they observe the routine and learn what they are supposed to do. Without other cows to teach her, your job is much more important, so be patient and thorough, and always try to see everything from the cow's perspective.



M turf-
Short answer is no, not really. Dairy cows are very sensitive creatures that expect a regular routine. I think that trying to milk once a week would be like pulling hen's teeth. The cow wouldnt understand what is going on, would hold up her milk, and not like you too much for the harassment. That is the hardship of dairy management, you have to milk every day. Of course, there are more exceptions than rules, but you would be really stretching the bounds of good dairy management.

 
Wes Hunter
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Coming in late, but I'll share another opinion.

We raise Dexters for milk and meat. One problem you're likely to find is that although much is said about Dexters being dual- or triple-purpose cattle, there is little being done in regards to milk production with the breed (or draft, for that matter). Indeed, there are certainly a lot of sub-par Dexters out there in general, in large part because they're a popular breed for hobbyists (read: people with more money than know-how, more often than not) and they don't get culled as rigorously as they should. So milking genetics are not to be had automatically.

When we first decided to milk one of our cows, we left the calf on her for about two weeks. I think one week would have been fine, but we did two. We milk in the morning, so in the evening (12 hours prior to milking, more or less) we separate cow from calf and go ahead and put the cow in the stanchion, so that's done. Then we milk. We've only been milking for two months or so, but I expect to keep this routine up until about 6 months. Six months may be longer than strictly necessary, but I've got two main reasons to keep the calf on that long: (1) I don't want to wean in mid-winter and risk any problems there -- seems like the calf would be better able to cope with weaning in spring/summer; and (2) we are trying to build a market for grass-fed, pasture-raised rose veal, and need the calves to be drinking milk until the day they're taken to the processor, and I feel like bottle feeding the calves could negatively affect the marketability.

I would advise against feeding the calves with a bucket sans nipple, as this can negatively affect rumen development. I know enough about this to know that I don't know much about it, but a little Google research can get you more info if you're so inclined.

Really, it's an incredibly simple proposition, so don't let the details bog you down--you'll figure them out as you go. In short, keep the calf on the momma for about a week, then when you're ready to start milking separate cow from calf and milk her out 12 hours later. Put them back together, and repeat.
 
Tokunbo Popoola
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Adam Klaus wrote:hi Robin, glad to hear you are thinking about a dual purpose milk cow-
What we do with our dual purpose Brown Swiss cows, is first of all, only milk once a day. this is sane for the farmer, easier on the cow, and leaves milk for the calf. It is critical to not feed grain with once a day milking, otherwise the grain will push the cow's production too high, and udder problems will result. The combination of grass only, and once a day is a real gem for the farmer.

Cow and calf are together 24hrs a day for a week. Then we seperate cow and calf first thing in the morning, milk in the evening, and then reunite the cow and calf afer evening milking. The calf is fine for the day by itself, and gets to drink milk all night. We do this sorting routine for two months. Then we wean the calf completely, and put the calf on excellent quality clover pasture. If your pasture is not excellent, you would not be able to wean so young. But we have found that two months is adequate so long as the pasture is excellent. Seasonal calving makes a lot of sense in this regard, as the calves are born in May, and weaned in July when the clover is top quality.

Bucket feeding is a possibility, though the calf doesnt always cooperate with the learning process. We have found that it is more hassle than its worth, and dont do it anymore. Bucket feeding definitely needs to use a nipple. Without a nipple, the calf gulps the milk too fast, not mixing in enough saliva, and indigestion and bad health are the result.

Hope this gives you some ideas, I am happy to talk cows all day. Love those milkin' mommas. good luck!




do you know if that system will work with goats and sheep? also.. if your pasture isnt so great could you give them a small amount of spirulina or something like that.. everyday for the first week ? after weaning
 
Adam Klaus
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sorry, I do not know anyting about the details of goat and sheep management as milk animals. I would imagine that it would work 80% or more, with a little tweaking of a few details to develop a perfect system. Try it and report back, that would be great.

good luck!
 
L. Zell
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That is what I do with my goats--I milk in the morning, leave the kids with mom all day, lock the kids up at night. Works well for me. The kids get to learn how to be goats, I get milk. No grain. I do feed some alfalfa pellets. I'm still working on my pastures. Right now, they are mostly fescue, which is pretty terrible for goats.
 
Angelika Maier
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I like the idea of milking once a day. The management is a lot less stressful.
Question: if you only have one cow and one calf, then it seems to be very mean to separate them that long.
Dumb question: do cows get one or two calves normally?
Our sheep has two lambs this year and she has not a drop of milk left. Now that she has two the separation thing is easy, but no milk.
 
Kelly Smith
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Angelika Maier wrote:I like the idea of milking once a day. The management is a lot less stressful.
Question: if you only have one cow and one calf, then it seems to be very mean to separate them that long.
Dumb question: do cows get one or two calves normally?
Our sheep has two lambs this year and she has not a drop of milk left. Now that she has two the separation thing is easy, but no milk.


we thought it was mean when we first separated the cow and calf also, but rest assured, they are both fine.
the calf may cry a bit, but he/she will be fine.

cows normally only have 1 calf, although twins does happen.

we milk twice a day currently, but are working towards once a day milking. once we separated teh calf we were surprised by how much the calf was drinking and how much the cow was holding up from us.

the longer a calf is allowed to nurse on momma, the harder they will be on the teats. we finally totally weaned after finding scratches/cuts on one of our cows teats.....
 
Adam Klaus
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Kelly Smith wrote:
we thought it was mean when we first separated the cow and calf also, but rest assured, they are both fine.
the calf may cry a bit, but he/she will be fine.

cows normally only have 1 calf, although twins does happen.

we milk twice a day currently, but are working towards once a day milking. once we separated teh calf we were surprised by how much the calf was drinking and how much the cow was holding up from us.

the longer a calf is allowed to nurse on momma, the harder they will be on the teats. we finally totally weaned after finding scratches/cuts on one of our cows teats.....


I agree with Kelly 100%. Well, almost. Get on the once a day game asap Kelly!
 
Angelika Maier
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Do you have one calf or several? Maybe it is a silly question but that calf gets bored and cows are herd animals. So if I would separate the animals in the morning and milk in the evening that calf would be alone all day long. But maybe calves are not lamb and do less silly things the whole day. Would that calf like the company of a sheep?
 
Kelly Smith
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Angelika Maier wrote:Do you have one calf or several? Maybe it is a silly question but that calf gets bored and cows are herd animals. So if I would separate the animals in the morning and milk in the evening that calf would be alone all day long. But maybe calves are not lamb and do less silly things the whole day. Would that calf like the company of a sheep?

we only have [had] 1 calf, but there are others here who have more.
we had our calf separated completely just before we sold her, and she seemed fine alone. she would mooo when momma cow was out in the pasture and couldnt be seen, but that didnt last long.

i dont think the company of a sheep/goat/lamb would[could] hurt.
 
Laura Wolfe
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Just thought I would tell you what I do with mine. I have a jersey cow I've been milking for three years. I don't wean my babies until I'm about ready to stop milking her. I leave the baby on full-time for the first week to two weeks, then I separate for maybe 4 hours and do my milking for a little while - I just keep tabs on how much milk I'm getting and/or want.

Eventually, I separate the baby all night and milk in the morning and they spend the day together. I like to milk in the morning so that if I want to go to a friends house or something in the evening, that particular chore is already done. My cow is pretty easy going and I can leave her with the calf and skip milking occasionally.

I think for a first-time milker you should be as consistent as possible, but after awhile, mine has become very pliable.

Good luck! I LOVE my cow - and I have to say that the steer that we butchered our first year with her was the MOST DELICIOUS beef I have ever had. It was pure jersey, and he didn't get huge, of course, but WOW!
 
Adam Klaus
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Laura Wolfe wrote:Just thought I would tell you what I do with mine....


Great stuff Laura, welcome to permies and I am really glad to hear about your positive relationship with dairy farming.

Keep sharing! We all learn so much from one another. Glad you found the forums...
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