We have recently started up a small, raw milk dairy, weaned the calves and have moved to twice a day milking. I am expecting our third child (3 under 4) and was wondering about how I am going to manage to leave our place again. How do you balance being able to go to things like fairs, events and such when milking happens at 5 and 5? I am worried our children will never be able to go to the city and see the zoo or book time at 4:30 at the public library! Any help or reassurance would be wonderful. I truly feel that the Lord has led us to this place and lifestyle, so it is not a huge concern, just a general wondering!!!
This. This right here is probably the #1 reason why more homesteaders don’t want a milking animal in their plans. It’s not that they can’t decide between cow vs. goat. It’s not that they need to learn how to milk a cow or all the other basics of keeping a family cow.
I totally get that. And were I to be completely honest, it’s one of the things I like best about having dairy cows on our homestead. (Besides the awesome raw milk and butter and cheese. And the relationship that grows when bonding happens between you and your dairy gal.)
Just like I like to play the “Baby Card” on chicken butchering day, sometimes I like to play the “Cows Need Milking Card” when it comes to social events. Nothing personal, it’s just that, as an introvert, visiting wipes me out. It knocks me on my butt and gives me a temporary case of insomnia. All that times 50 if my husband, extrovert extraordinaire, isn’t there. It’s just the way it is.
But while I’m being completely honest, how truthful is the “Cows Need Milking Card”?
Is it true that you can never miss Milk O’Clock?
My answer, the truthful one, is, “Yes and no.”
Here are some questions to ask yourself first.
Does your cow have mastitis?
Then you’d better be down in the barn, milk pail in hand when the clock strikes Milk.
Did she just have her calf a few weeks ago?
Do that poor girl a favor and be prompt!
Did you sleep in this morning?
Cancel your plans for the next few days and get back on track.
Did you just wean the calf?
Poor mama could use the extra love, she misses her baby. And the relief it brings to her fullness throughout the day (or night.) You should be on time.
Has she been on some really good grass and is repaying your kindness by filling her udder to the brim?
Say thank you, and take it on time.
When is Ok to Be Late for Milking?
But what if things have been going well? There’s no mastitis, she’s healthy, mid- to late lactation, if the calf is weaned, it’s been for a few weeks, etc… Then it isn’t going to kill her if you’re a little late one, maybe even the occasional two nights a week if you’ve got something going on.
Around here, we’re anything but regular with our milking times, especially at night. Our night time milking is anywhere between 5:30-7:30 depending on how crazy things are around here. Often it’s my fault and I couldn’t get dinner on at 5 like I’m supposed to. The main milking team can be disorganized. It can take over 20 minutes just to find the wash pail. Then the dog ran away to the neighbors, the sheep got out, Stella won’t come in… In a night all these things add up and we can be pretty late. It happens.
A few weeks ago, we took a long ago promised trip to the city and went to the zoo. The grandparents came, we don’t see them nearly as often as we’d like. We got to blabbing, and riding camels, and eating ice cream. Time slipped away. We didn’t even leave until it was Milk O’Clock. (It might have even been Milk:Thirty!) We high-tailed it home and took care of the gals right away, but in the end, there were no detrimental effects. There was no dip in production and no one even got mastitis.
Quick Tip: Use the SmartSteader homestead management app to record your daily milk yields. A few quick taps at each milking and you easily see changes in production over time. Armed with this information you can tell what effect date night had on your dairy gal’s milk. (Or whether that new hay is really good and you’re getting more milk. Or whether the weaned calf isn’t actually weaned after all.) With SmartSteader you can track your expenses and production without having to do any of the math. Take notes and journal your observations so you can detect causes of change in production. It’s gonna totally change the way you homestead!
The Relief Milker
We’ve even been known in the past to leave the calf on with mama for the 12 hours it’s supposed to be off to go out of town for the night! To me, that’s one of the great perks of leaving the calf on mama & not bottle-feeding it the milk. You have a Relief Milker when you need it. Obviously, that wouldn’t work if it was weaned, but the option still is there. You could try to plan big trips for prior to weaning, or better yet during the “dry” season.
I look at the whole issue this way:
As a lactating mammal (and I’m currently clocking in at 9.25 years of lactation under my belt), there are times when baby can NOT be late for a feeding! Like when the baby is a newborn. Or if he or she slept really well and we missed an overnight feeding or worse two. Or if that happens a couple days in a row and I feel a blocked duct or especially if there is a case of mastitis. If I miss one of those feedings it could jeopardize my health and milk supply and therefore, eventually, the baby’s health.
But, let’s take Phoebe for example. Right now, she’ll be 10 months old in a little over a week. I could skip 2-3 feedings before my body starts screaming for some relief. Several months ago, if I was an hour late it was torture.
The Takeaway (Besides a Bucket of Milk)
While we have to use good judgment and discretion as to when we can be late for milkings, it is possible to do so without any harm to the cow or her milk supply. But even if that was not the case (because some types of outings are introvert-friendly), I’m resolved to make the sacrifice to be home on time for the majority of nights so long as we are caring for dairy cows on our homestead. It’s worth it to me for my children to have access to one of the most beneficial and healthy (not to mention absolutely delicious) foods in its purest, untampered form, raw milk.