Skip to main content

Drying off a house cow without antibiotics

Its important to "dry off" a cow before she has her next calf, this allows her body to recover and prepare for her new baby.  It is recommended that you give the cow at least 6 weeks, but it all depends on the cow's condition, the available feed and the calf (if it will also be weaned at the same time).  Drying up is nearly as risky for mastitis as the start of lactation, so its a time that needs to be carefully managed.  The two options are to either stop milking completely, or to gradually stop milking as much until the cow is making very little milk.

Molly with baby Monty 6 months ago
In the past, when we dryed off Bella, it was simply a matter of taking the calf away to be weaned in another paddock, and milking Bella a few times (not taking all the milk) until she stopped producing.  She was usually only making 4L by that stage, so there was no problem.  This method is not recommended as it doesn't allow a natural plug to form in the teat (maybe that's why Bella got mastitis last lactation).

We were not prepared for Molly!  We decided that she needed to be dried up, even though Monty is only 6 months old (he could have had a bit longer).  We have Bella in milk, so we didin't really need to milk Molly and she was looking very thin, and Monty very fat.  We didn't have much good grass for Molly, so we decided to dry her off so we could try to feed her up to better condition before she has her next calf (in maybe 4-5 months).  At first we tried the same method we used with Bella, but Molly was making 10 L at each milking (daily), which didn't seem to decrease, no matter what we did for 2 weeks (I made a lot of cheese and ice cream!).  This explained why she was so thin and why Monty was so fat, she is such a good cow!

Finally we realised that we were going to have to stop milking (and that's when I found out that the other method isn't recommended) and let her body stop making milk.  The key here is that we also changed her diet.  The problem with milking her is that we feed her grain when we milk, so it was difficult to reduce her protien intake.  When we stopped milking, we stopped feeding grain too.  We just gave Molly lots of hay to fill up on, and a tiny amount of grain with all her minerals (and extra garlic for antibiotic properties).

I was a little put off by the conventional advice to use an intra-teat antibiotic and an artificial teat sealant to prevent mastitis.  I didn't want to do either of those things, and I had to trust that Molly's own immune system was strong enough to manage what should be a natural process (although we have engineered dairy cows to make an unnatural amount of milk).  So if you're still drinking non-organic milk, those cows are routinely treated with antibiotics when they are dried off.  They will be out of the "with-holding" period by the time you drink their milk, but is it really safe?

Gradually, over the next few weeks, Molly's udder began to shrink, so we knew it was working.  Molly seemed happy with the hay, but lonely (she had to be separated from the others so she didn't steal their grain, being he dominant one with horns).  We won't know until she has her calf if we've been succesful, but I'm hoping my big strong Molly cow is going to be ok.

Here's some useful links if you want to know more:

Conventional
http://www.lely.com/en/farming-tips/drying-off-the-dairy-cow
http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/404/404-212/404-212.html
http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/su10dryinglivestock

Organic
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3113871/
http://orgprints.org/7681/
http://www.homesteadorganics.ca/dairy.aspx

Any tips for drying off milking cows or goats?

You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy

Comments

  1. Awww Molly, hope you're all ok soon xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh wow! It's such a huge wealth of knowledge you've had to embark on in this adventure isn't it! She's beautiful - hope all is well x

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for this post, Liz. I have been wondering about drying up a larger producing animal. Our new goat gives us 3 L per day (which is heaps for a goat!) and she does the same thing , her body keeps giving and giving because she is a really good milker. I will be able to use this advice when it is time to get her back in kid again ,because like you , I was concerned about mastitis .

    ReplyDelete
  4. I hope you do find it useful Kim. It is difficult Bekka Joy because most of the information is for commercial dairy herds and we do things quite differently :) Thanks Rachy!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

Popular posts from this blog

Getting started with chickens - Tanya from Lovely Greens

Sign up for my weekly email updates here, you will find out more about soap and our farmlife, straight to your inbox, never miss a post!  New soap website and shop opening soon....

Farmer Liz: You will remember Tanya from Lovely Greens from the first series, she lives on the Isle of Mann and added chickens to her garden about a year ago.  You can leave comments for this post on Tanya's blog.



How many chickens (and other fowl) do you keep, what breed and what do you use them for (meat, eggs, slug control etc)?
Tanya: Around the same time that we were initially thinking about having hens another friend beat us to the punch. She went to the local pet store and bought a flat-pack hen house and chicken run combo and found a local farmer who had dozens of semi-feral chickens running around his property. One night he pulled three down from the trees and my friend took them home in a pet carrier. She named them Miracel, Carmen, and Geraldine and though they’re probably related they were all…

What to do with eight acres

Behind the scenes of my blog I can see the search terms that led people to find my blog.  It can be quite interesting to look through them occasionally and see what people are looking for.  Most of them involve chicken tractors, but another question that comes up regularly is “what can you do with eight acres?” or “how much land is eight acres?”.  Today I will try to answer this question.

Of course it is a very broad question, there are lots and lots of things you can do with eight acres, but I’m going to assume that you want to live there, feed your family and maybe make a little extra money.  I make that assumption because that’s what I know about, if you want to do something else with your eight acres, you will need to look somewhere else.

If you haven’t chosen your land yet, here a few things to look for.  Focus on the things you can’t change and try to choose the best property you can find in your price range.  Look for clean water in dams, bores or wells, either on the property …

Growing mushrooms in my kitchen!

I’ve been wanting to try growing mushrooms for some time. I LOVE mushrooms and we buy them from the supermarket every week, so I was keen to find a way to produce them at home to reduce waste and potentially cost as well.





A few years ago I found out that you could grow mushrooms from the spent mushroom compost from mushroom farms. So we dropped in to a farm on the Sunshine Coast and picked up a couple of boxes for $2 each. I diligently kept them dark and sprayed them with water, but in our climate, I just couldn’t keep them damp enough (and I had to keep them outside because our shed was too hot). I never managed to produce any mushrooms from those boxes, but when I gave up and tipped the compost out onto the garden, mushrooms sprang up everywhere. I wasn’t confident that they were the right mushrooms though, so I didn’t harvest any of those. As the proverb says, All mushrooms are edible, but some only once! I am generally a bit nervous about unidentified fungi.

Since then, I had…