How to Dry up a Milk Cow
Bawling Calf – All Mamma’s Beware!
We are going through a little problem I haven’t yet disclosed here on the blog. I was kind-of waiting to see how it all turned out before I shared.
After our cow, Faith, calved, we did not “breed her back.” We were intentional in that decision. We (I) didn’t see the need to put the stress of having a calf every 12 months on her. We were happy to just milk her without the constant production of calves.
I have since seen the error of my ways.
Cows have calves.
Dairy cows have a beautiful cycle of calving each year. They make milk for about 9 months. They take a nice long rest at the end of their pregnancy. They give you a baby cow every year. It is a beautiful set up.
Don’t be like me. It is good to let your cow have a calf each year.
Long story short – we couldn’t get our cow bred and after talking with our vet were presented with 3 options:
- Keep trying to breed her & hope her production slows down so she’ll ovulate. He said that her milk production should begin to slow down since it has been over a year (way over a year) since she calved. When her milk factory backs off a bit, she should begin ovulating again.
- Dry up the cow so she’ll start ovulating faster.
- Get a bull.
Soooooooo, this brings us to our sad reality.
We aren’t exactly to take on a bull right now, so we are going with option 2
We have decided to dry up our milk cow so we can (hopefully) get her bred.
I am facing the hard truth that I will have a milk-free zone ahead of me. Poor me. I am already scouting out my options for obtaining some milk from another source. I just can’t drink the white stuff they sell at the grocery store. It tastes wrong. It looks wrong. It is not real food.
This brings us to drying up the cow. She has a calf on her, so we have to get him to stop nursing so she’ll stop making milk.
In order to reduce the stress of weaning our little guy (400 pounds – so don’t feel too sorry for him!) we started with a gentle approach.
This is a calf-weaner. You fasten it on the calf’s nose and it will (supposedly) prevent him from being able to nurse.
Hold still buddy, this will only take a second.
Hopefully, this will prevent our little guy from nursing & allow us to leave him in the same field with Faith.
Well, 2 days later we are trying to figure if Faith magically dried up on her own, or if the baby cow is still nursing with his nose-ring on. Faith’s udder is empty. Where did the milk go? Is someone milking our cow at night? Are there Aliens abducting the milk? OR is the baby cow still nursing?
It was the baby cow. We caught him with his mouth full of udder & a big’ol milk-mustache. Busted.
Don’t waste your money on a “calf-weaner” for his nose – it didn’t work for us.
So we moved on to Plan B.
Separate the cows.
We have 2 fields & this was an option from the beginning but we just wanted to keep them together if we could.
- Cows are herd animals and are happier when they have another cow to hang out with.
- Winter is here and 2 cows means more body heat in the run-in.
- There is no electricity in the far field & we will have to break ice and deal with all sorts of water nightmares if there is a cow in the far field during winter.
But, since the nose piece didn’t work….. Crumple (the calf) went into the far field.
Faith in Field #1, Crumple in Field #2.
Now, the baby cow definitely won’t be able to nurse. Unless he jumps the fence.
There is a problem with this plan. There is not a run-in in field #2. We want Crumple to have some protection from the weather and a nice cozy place to sleep and hang out. Especially since we took away his milk factory. So, my husband and my oldest son built one.
It took them a couple of days.
They got it done.
It needs paint.
But, for now, it will keep the baby cow dry, safe and out of the weather. That is, if he would go in it, it would keep him dry, safe, and out of the weather.
He will not go in it. Rain, cold, wind. He will not go in that run-in.
He is too busy walking up and down the fence-line mooing.
Here he comes! Do you see that mud-path. He has done nothing but walk up and down that fence line for 4 days and moo.
I have heard the term “bawling calves” before, but never gave it much thought.
Now, I can tell you first hand that “bawling calves” means “BAWLING” calves.
Poor, poor, poor baby cow. All he does is cry. He walks up and down the fence line and cries day and night. We can hear him from the yard. We can hear him from the house. We can hear him from inside the house.
Poor, poor Crumple! He is not happy and is making sure the entire county knows it.
Crumple, Dude, you’ve worn a path along the fence!
Honey, did you see that nice run-in we just built for you?
I just filled your feeder – want some hay or grain?
What’s over there buddy?
There is a fence in-between these 2 fields (that you can barely see). Faith is in the field on the left. Crumple is in the field on the right.
If you happen to be in a situation where you are listening to a baby cow complain and loudly show his dissatisfaction with the lack of milk situation; I can tell you it will end.
It took our calf 4 days to get the picture & move on with his milk-free life.
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