Hypothetical Family Dairy Cow Question

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by ashlieneevel, Mar 18, 2015.

  1. ashlieneevel

    ashlieneevel Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 24, 2014
    I don't have any cows but would perhaps consider having them in the very distant future so I have a hypothetical question that I hope one of you may be able to answer for me.


    Is there any biological or psychological benefit to the dairy cow to have them produce milk one year then take a year off before being asked to produce milk again?

    I know many people keep their cow pregnant and producing year after year or they continue milking even if they don't get the cow pregnant the following year. I don't know much about cows but im assuming the cow wouldn't mind having a bit of time off here and there. I even get the feeling (though I surely could be wrong) that it would only benefit the cow's overall well being to have the time off in between. Now I know I don't take a year off from needing milk butter and cheese every other year so I would keep a second dairy cow for the first to be friends with and to produce milk for me in the off year for the other cow. I imagine some people might ask why spend money on a cow that isnt producing for you and my only answer to that would be because if there is an actual benefit to the animal to not only have a friend but also time off between work that it would be worth the additional costs to me.

    So is there any benefit to doing this or am I just overly nice and considerate to my hypothetical cow lol
     
  2. Chickerdoodle13

    Chickerdoodle13 The truth is out there...

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    Dairies keep their cows producing milk as often as possible because they can make more money this way. A cow that is not producing milk (Other than the mandatory dry period before giving birth) is losing money for the farm. Additionally, cows that do not get pregnant easily or on time are in danger of being culled as well.

    Typically, a dairy cow will be in milk for 305 days, with a 60 day dry period. About 85 or so days after giving birth, she is bred back. Gestation is about 280 days and the cycle continues. This only happens for about five to six years before she is retired. Most dairy cows are bred at about 14-15 months of age so they calve at about 24 months of age. Remember, these cows have been bred for this and they typically do pretty well. I tend to think the biggest issues with high producers on most dairies is mastitis. It can be pretty difficult to eliminate. That and maybe foot rot.

    Anyway, I don't think there are any reasons NOT to do it this way, other than the fact that you are a backyard owner and don't NEED to keep her producing. Additionally, you may have trouble breeding her back as efficiently as these bigger dairies because you may not have access to AI equipment and may have trouble detecting standing heat (If you decide not to use something like OvSync or the like to regulate her cycle). Even bulls are not all that accurate.

    Chances are, you may want to keep her producing for a longer time, so having some time in between may extend her productive years. I would factor in the time it might take you to get her pregnant though, which could be a few to several months for a beginning. As long as cows have adequate feed to support lactation and pregnancy, they can do amazing things (Remember that lactation to the degree some of these cows can do is like running a huge marathon every day!)
     
  3. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    Feeding a cow that is not lactating is expensive. A cow in a backyard type setting will milk for many years. I bought a cow that appeared to be starving at an auction, I milked her for 6 years or more. She was still giving milk when her teeth finally gave out on her.
     
  4. ashlieneevel

    ashlieneevel Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for such a detailed response.It was really helpful.
     
  5. ashlieneevel

    ashlieneevel Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for your response. As I pointed out in the original post the additional cost would be worth it to me if there was benefit to the cow to do it that way. Also, which I didn't mention, I would have a mini cow which is much cheaper to keep than its full size counterparts.
     

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