How Much Milk Does a Cow Make?

After asking people what they wanted to learn about dairy cows this month, I realized that I’m taking for granted what information people know. One of the most basic questions asked was “How much milk does a cow give anyways?”. Why did I not think of sharing something like that on my own? Time to get with it!

Let’s start with the basics. A cow is a mammal. Mammals of any kind must give birth to produce milk. The average cow at our farm gives birth for the first time around 22 months of age, then about every 14 months after that. After having her calf the cow enters the milking group and the calf heads over to our calf barn to be taken care of (and receive loving and hugging from the tribe). To learn more about taking care of baby calves, click here:

After a cow on our farm joins the milking group she is milked 3 times a day. If this is her first baby she will be milked 3 times a day for her entire lactation. A lacatation is the period of time a cow is milked for between babies. Most cows are milked a little less than a year before going on a 2 month break to rest up for the birth of their next calf. If the cow has had more than one baby they will only be milked 3 times a day for the first 100 days of her lactation, then they will be put on a schedule to be milked twice a day until it’s time for them to go dry. Dry is the term used to describe their break period before birth, meaning that their udder is dry and not producing milk at this time.

The amount of times a cow is milked per day varies from farm to farm. Some milk twice a day, some milk three times a day and some are split like us. Either way is a good practice. It just depends on which management style works best for that farm. Here is why we milk like we do:

Farmers measure the amount of milk their cows give in pounds. The only time milk is ever measured or sold in gallons is at the store. On average our cows give 24,500 pounds of milk a lactation. That’s 2,848 gallons of milk in a year!

If we break it down in to a day by day basis, our ladies each give us about 75 pounds of tasty milk daily. We have almost 990 gallons of milk leave our farm every day!

Once a month we measure how much each individual cow gives. This helps us to make many management decisions. It also insures that all the cows are giving high quality milk. Some of our best cows last month gave over 125 pounds a day. The most we’ve ever had a cow give in one day is 160 pounds, you’ll get to “meet” her in a blog a little later this month.

Some of our ladies being milked. You can notice a meter measuring how much milk she is giving in the middle of the picture.

Some of our ladies being milked. You can notice a meter measuring how much milk she is giving in the middle of the picture.

** With June being dairy month, if you have any questions relating to dairy cows feel free to leave them in the comments section. I will answer them for you as quickly as I can!**



7 thoughts on “How Much Milk Does a Cow Make?

  1. I used to go to work with my dad when he worked for a Dairy Herd Improvement company and I always loved watching the cows get milked, I’m learning more from reading your blogs this month than I remember from those days!

    • Glad you’re learning things! Our DHI tester is great, sadly he’s in his 70’s and keeps talking of retirement. He was even nice enough he milked our cows on the day we were married so none of our family had to worry about going to the barn to milk! Some people are hard to replace.

      • Now that’s “going above and beyond!” He sounds like a great guy, hopefully his replacement (when it finally comes, hopefully not too soon) will be as well.

  2. Ok, so after giving birth they are milked and calves are taken to be loved up by Emma and Taylor. Are the calves then fed from that milk? Remember, this aunt is a VERY city girl. Milk comes from the store in my world! Lol

    • They are fed milk from their moms for a few days so they receive all their colostrum. Then, at our farm, they are placed on milk replacer. Formula for calves basically. Some farms do feed pasteurized milk from cows to their calves. Replacer vs pasteurized milk just depends on the farm. I have no problem explaining 😉

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