How to Milk a Cow Once a Day

Reader Contribution by Candi Johns
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Owning a milk cow can be one of the most rewarding and gratifying parts of homesteading. It is also one of the bigger undertakings on the farm.

Getting a milk cow should not be taken lightly. It is a commitment. If you are interested in cow-ownership, milking, making butter, and all things dairy, but you aren’t too sure about the 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. milkings every day, you have come to the right place!

Prepare to be free!

Yes, you can milk your cow once a day. I am going to tell you how to do it.

I have owned two milk cows and we milked them both once a day. It is a fabulous arrangement.

I love my cow. I love milking my cow. Especially in the morning. The world is just beginning to come to life. The sun is rising, the sky is glowing. Everything is quiet, except for Shuck (our Bani-Rooster). He’s always crowing.

No one is awake, my home is orderly and clean. The air is brisk. I love my morning trip to the milking barn. Time disappears as we spend those first few minutes of our day gathering milk for the family.

Then it happens. Everyone gets up, it’s time for breakfast, school, chores and just when I get into my daily groove … it’s 5 and crap! We need to milk the cow again.

I love milking my cow – but, those two milkings were ruling my life.

Want to go out to dinner? Nope, I have to milk the cow.

The family’s having a barbecue? Nope, I have to milk the cow.

Friends are over for dinner? Excuse me, I have to milk the cow.

It’s Christmas? I have to milk the cow.

Everything had to be scheduled around those two times a day when I had to milk the cow. When I switched to once a day milking, life changed. I was free. Switching from two milkings a day to one a day is the easiest thing in the world. You can be free too.

There are a couple options:

1. Many folks milk their cow once a day, period. No calf. No “share” milking. No hired hands. They simply have a super-cow who can be milked every 24 hours with no problems. This is not me. I have a high-maintenance cow who used to be on a milking line and likes to get mastitis. Milking once every 24 hours isn’t an option for me.

2. Keep the calf with the cow. By “milk-sharing” with your calf you can take milk anytime you want it and let the calf take care of the other milking. This is a wonderful arrangement. A perk of milk-sharing with the calf is that your cow will be raising your beef for you. Yea! No bottles!

3. If your cow is not about to calve or you already ate the calf, don’t worry! You can buy one. We have had tremendous success grafting orphan calves onto our Jersey cows. Jerseys are not only known for being excellent cream producers, they are also excellent mothers.

Tips for buying a calf to graft on to your milk cow:

• Buy from an individual if possible.

• Be sure he (or she) is healthy.

• The younger the better. We only buy 1 week old or younger.

• If your cow is a high producer you may consider two calves.

• Confirm that the calf received colostrum the first days after birth.

Once you have a healthy calf it should be a cinch to get a break from all the milking.

When the calf is tiny, we just leave him/her with mama-cow around the clock. In the morning we bring mama-cow into the milk barn and get our milk. The rest of the day the calf takes care of things for us. We get all the milk we need and I can milk whenever I want.

When the calf gets bigger, he will begin to eat all your milk and cream and butter. Even if the little guy is as full as a tick, he may continue to drink all your milk.

Our cow produces about 4 gallons a day. A calf does not need 4 gallons a day. A calf can get sick eating 4 gallons a day. In order to be sure we continue to get all the milk we want and the calf does not eat himself to death we separate the mama cow from the calf. There are many ways to play this game. We’ve tried two approaches.


First we tried penning up the calf during the day. Then we would milk our cow in the late afternoon. After we milked her we would reunite her with her calf and leave them together until the next morning. This worked out well for us; however, we were only getting about a gallon and the calf was drinking all my butter. A friend suggested that we pen the calf up at night instead of during the day.

So we did.


We penned up the calf in the evening and milked our cow first thing in the morning.

What happened was amazing. We got twice the amount of milk. We went from 1 gallon to 2 gallons and our cream line dramatically increased.

We turned half of the run-in into a pen for the calf. There’s our guy inside. He has his water. He has his food. He is all set for the night. Mama can see her baby, check on him, and sleep right next to him. Happy mama cow.

I can go out to eat dinner.

I can go to the family barbecue.

I can have friends over and not ask them if they want to go milk the cow.

I can celebrate Christmas with family instead of cows. OK, maybe I want to be with my cows on Christmas too.

If we want to get away for the weekend, the calf can milk the cow for us.

If we want to go on a 10-day vacation, the calf can milk the cow for us.

If I want to sleep in on Saturday the calf can milk the cow. Squeal!

It’s a beautiful arrangement. I get all the milk I want and the calf takes care of the rest. Milking once a day is wonderful.

If your calf gets ornery or huge and has to be relocated, you can still milk once a day. Just buy another calf to graft onto your sweet mama cow. If she is anything like ours, she will love having a new orphan to raise and in a few months you will have another beef for the freezer.

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