What is "drying off" cows all about?

December 28, 2019
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A few days before Christmas, we "dried off" the remaining 13 cows we had still been milking. If you've not been around cows much or are not familiar with dairying this may be a foreign concept so I thought I'd shed some light on the subject if you're one of the wonderers!

First, some very basic background info on a cow:
As a mammal, a cow produces milk in response to giving birth to a baby to provide nourishment. We harvest the milk not consumed by the calf, but eventually the cow needs a rest period so her body and udder can rejuvenate before having another baby the next year. This is known as her dry period. In the dairy industry, most all cows have a dry period if they experience multiple pregnancies over their lifetime.

One of the things that makes us different from many dairies is that our herd is seasonal. The cows mostly calve within a few week time period in the spring (because we keep the bulls separate from the females during specific times of the year), which means they all begin giving milk when they calve in that time period. And the goal is that they will all give milk until late fall or early winter when we give them a chance to go on vacation (and us a little bit too!!) for a while. Some cows quit working a little sooner in the year than others though!

If a cow is still giving a decent amount of milk daily, it may not be enough to just stop milking her. The girls who are better milkers may have to convince their bodies to stop. When you stop milking a cow and the milk accumulates, it will build up some pressure in the udder, which sends her body signals to stop lactating. About a week after we quit milking for the year, we actually bring the cows back in to milk out what has accumulated in their udders to aid the process called involution. Some cows that really milk well may require an additional time or two of this process to shut off their production. Basically the cells in the udder go through a regeneration process during the dry period. By the time she has her next baby, the mammary gland is refreshed and ready to produce that creamy nourishment again!

The day after Christmas we brought those 13 cows back to the barn for one more milking. Silas LOVES his
job...and winter is not his favorite because there's not as much work to do! But this video shows him doing what he loves best :)

This video shows the final milking...the second to last cow is Oralee...she's a stomper, which you can see when dad goes to wipe her off. But she is a good milker so we put up with her, haha! Sorry for the sound quality...the sound of the milkers pulsating overwhelmed my voice as I was trying to describe what was happening. I'll try to improve my techniques in future videos ;) 

If you have further questions or I didn't explain something well enough, be sure to ask! We love sharing with you about the process of producing nourishing food!

Kate Cobb

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