Dried Off

My cow Katika is now officially dried off and on her annual two-month vacation. No more fresh milk until she calves (knock wood!) at the end of June.

I had weaned Rocky, Katika’s own yearling calf, in early March before we went to Florida, when the weather finally felt safe for him to have the weaning ring in his nose. Then I weaned her foster bull calf, Duke, at the beginning of April. Since Katika barely tolerates foster calves, to wean them is blessedly simple. It merely requires not letting the calf out while she’s locked in her stanchion. Et voilà, he’s weaned.

The following week I began to decrease how much milk I took every day. It amazed me how quickly her production fell off. Three gallons one day; one gallon the next. I stopped milking altogether on Good Friday. Yesterday I noticed her front quarters were quite full. When I felt her bag it was warm and solid and meaty, like a baby’s bottom. A dried-off udder should be loose and floppy. Too much heat would indicate mastitis. I milked just to be sure everything was OK.

She was fine. I only took about three quarts. When I got home I strained it and jarred it as usual, only realizing on looking at it, that of course the greyish milk was not good. It looked just like what it was — milk that had sat around in a warm place (her udder) for three days. I dumped it.

The last milk in her bag should resorb over the coming week.

Simply with weaning, Katika is looking much better. Her winter coat is almost completely shedded and she is regaining her gloss. Though I can still see her ribs, her tell-tale short ribs and spine are properly covered with a light layer of fat. For a while there she had been reminding me of a moth-eaten old carpet propped up on sticks, so this is very rewarding. My friend who grew up on a dairy farm had been worried by how much grain I was feeding her (about 12 pounds a day). Though this isn’t a huge amount for a dairy cow, it made him nervous. Now I will cut her down to half that. In another two or three weeks we will have grass and she will happily graze all day, building up her reserves.

The forecast is for dark skies and rain every day this week, but the temperature is not due to fall below freezing. I imagine the rain thawing the soil and calling up the grass, and I don’t mind.

Drying off my cow is always a time of mixed emotions. On the one hand, I’m relieved: no more milking! One less chore every day. On the other hand: no more milk!

It will be strange to make my way to the dairy case in the supermarket.


5 Responses to Dried Off

  1. Missy says:

    Looks like our cows have parallel lives to add to their similar looks. Midnight’s last milking was on Easter Saturday. I used the “take half” approach with her last week too and on Saturday when I milked her (after missing a day) I got just 2 liters. So far her udder has hardly refilled and while it feels warm, it doesn’t feel hot or too full. I’m still hoping I’ve come through my first drying off without any mishaps! Unfortunately I have to wait until September for milk again! Have dried her off now so that the family can go on holidays and she can fatten up a little over winter. Dairy aisle, I despise you, but I need you!

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Hi Missy! What breed is Midnight? I’m so sorry you will be out of milk for five months though not milking every day does make life simpler in winter.

      • Missy says:

        She’s a (dairy looking) dexter but reminds me so much of Katika (cool name btw). http://adventuresatlilliput.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/hows-midnight-going/ What do you think?

        I love reading your blog and thinking about your winter… Our winters are so mild that we still wear shorts and t-shirts for a good number of days and visit the beach on great ones, so I really can’t complain about winter milking! (Even though I did last year;-) ) At least the milk free time will be tempered by the busyness and excitement of adding two baby miniature goats to our menagerie this year. Can’t wait!

      • adkmilkmaid says:

        Midnight is very, very pretty! Katika also has a bit of brown under her black coat, but hers is very dark chocolate as opposed to chestnut. Katika’s calves, however, 3/4 Jersey, have just that reddish under-tinge. Does Midnight ever throw red calves? I think Midnight’s condition looks about two weeks behind Katika’s in the “putting weight back on” department. I can still see the bumps of the spinal vertebrae. These have just gone away in Katika, so I’m feeling good and cutting down her grain, so she doesn’t get fat in her dry period before calving. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Missy says:

    Midnight will be 12 this year and is a seasoned mother but I’ve only had her 14 months. Her last calf was black (and tasty) and prior to that, I don’t know about their colour. I think dun and red are recessive in dexters, but personally, I prefer the black. When she came she was a lot redder, especially on the legs, but supplementing her with copper has blackened her up and smoothed out her coat. I will pass on your compliment and she will ignore me and keep chewing. Cows! It’s encouraging to hear that she’s not too far behind Katika in her weight gain although she’ll have a longer dry period, so I’m not rushing. My other dexter fattened up on air last winter! Makes me nervous…

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