Making the Switch to Once-A-Day Milking
By Tracy Houpt
My milk goat and I have been transitioning to once-a-day (OAD) milking this past week. I was nervous about it, but we’re six days into the process, and it seems to be going well. Of course if you could get Focus’s opinion, she might disagree. She’s getting less grain and carrying a heavier load in her udder! Here’s why I decided to do this, and how I’ve approached it.
1. Focus is a highly productive Sable Saanen dairy doe, and with twice a day milkings, she gives a bit more than a gallon a day. We drink some, I use it for baking and cooking, I make ricotta cheese, and I have lots in the freezer for making soap. Even with that, the chickens, cats, and dogs were still sharing a half gallon every day.
2. No matter how much I enjoy my farm chores, it was starting to feel a bit restrictive to know that I had to be here every evening by 7 p.m. Even farmers need a social life!
3. A dairy goat eats quite a bit of grain while she’s on the milkstand, to support the demands of lactation. OAD milking cuts down some on that expense.
1. I consulted a friend who milks her Alpine doe once a day. I also read online about others’ experiences, and decided to start the first night by milking her out about halfway, at the usual time. She ate less grain because she wasn’t on the stand as long.
2. The next two nights, I went out to the barn about an hour later than usual and milked out about a third of the usual amount. Her grain intake was smaller, accordingly.
3. After that, I gave all the girls just a bit of grain to share at their bedtime to get them into their stall. Focus’s udder hasn’t seemed overly full or uncomfortable, so I didn’t milk out anything after the third night.
Interestingly, Focus has been giving 3.5 quarts with the new morning-only milking schedule. Before that, she gave 2 quarts each morning and 2 quarts each night. If she maintains 3.5 quarts a day, I will still be getting a considerable amount of milk for half the work. Not a bad trade-off.
There are different ways to make the switch to OAD milking, so if you’re considering this, I suggest reading online and talking to other goat owners to see what has worked for them. Animals are individuals and will respond differently, so it may take some trial and error to find what works for your situation. The only drawback I’m noticing, and it’s minor, is that Focus is quite full in the mornings and it takes a little longer to get the milk flow going. I don’t mind that, but the two barn cats let me know they don’t like waiting for their share. Sorry, Sage and Stripes!
According to what I’ve read, some goats who are switched to OAD milking respond by giving half as much milk. In our situation, that would still provide enough milk for our needs. Some goats get mastitis when the change is made. Timing may be a factor; some of my reading indicated that it’s better to make the change when the doe is three to four months into her lactation, rather than switching soon after she has her kids. Focus has been in milk now since the end of March, so the timing seems good.
If all goes well and Focus kids next spring, we plan to leave her kid(s) on her for two weeks before beginning OAD milking. The idea is to leave mom and babies together during the day, then separate them at night so we can have some of the morning milk. From what I’ve read, this is a more typical way to achieve OAD milking. Focus had kidded two weeks before we bought her, but since we didn’t have the option to buy her buckling, sharing the milk with a kid wasn’t a possibility this time around.
I can’t leave this post without paying tribute to my husband’s grandfather, Les Young, who managed a small herd of dairy cows for much of his farming life. He sold the milk to the Maplehurst Co. He went one stretch of 27 years without missing a milking! My husband has many fond memories of watching (and sometimes helping) Grandpa Young take care of the daily chores. Grandpa, I tip my girly purple John Deere hat to you. I have nothing but admiration for your life’s work. All of us in the Young/Houpt extended family miss you.
Lowell just reminded me of a funny story, when Grandpa was working on a contrary hay baler and needed a tool. He was asking Lowell to get it for him, but he ran through his own sons’ names first. “Hey, Vernal, uh, Russell, uh, Lowell, hand me the Great Persuader!”
“What’s that?” Lowell asked him.
“The hammer!” Grandpa replied.
Have you ever switched to an OAD milking schedule? How did it go for you and your cow or goat? I’d be very interested to hear about it!
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