A cow has to have a calf to produce milk, just like any other mammal. But did you know our cows go on vacation before they have their calves?
Cows go dry at our farm 60 days before they are due to have their calf. Dry means that she is not milked during this period of time. It is time for her udder to quit producing milk and to take a break. If they are not given this rest studies have shown that they will produce much less milk after they have their next calf. It is not healthy for them to not have a dry period. Dry period lengths vary from farm to farm, anywhere from 30-60 days depending on what works best for that farm.
When cows go dry at our farm they are given 2 things. A long lasting antibiotic in their quarter and then their teat is sealed. The long lasting antibiotic helps make sure no contaminates make the cow sick if she should encounter any. 60 days with little supervision is a long time to run in to germs. The teat is then sealed to limit and avoid germs entering the teat end. This is all done so we have a happy healthy mother and baby upon calving. If the cow becomes infected with mastitis during the dry period, and it is a severe case, it can make the calf very sick after birth. Mastitis during the dry period can also lead to damaged udder tissue where she no longer produces milk out of all teats.
Once a cow has been given dry cow treatment her milk is not marketable for 48 days. After the girls get their dry treatment they hop on the trailer and head to green pastures!
After a very brief trailer ride, the arrive to the barn and pasture at the house we live at on the farm. Here they have access to 20+ acres of pasture, as well as large bank barn to keep them out of the elements when the weather gets nasty.
While here they are fed a special diet to help them and their calf stay healthy. All the pasture is great exercise for them, which is important while a cow is dry. Fat cows have a hard time with calving. After living here for 5 weeks they get to take a trailer ride back to the main farm.
Once they arrive back home they enter the “close up pen”. This pen holds the girls their final weeks of pregnancy. It is a spacious pen where they eat a ration more geared towards getting them ready to once again produce milk.
After they calve and spend some time with their new little one they enter back in to the milking herd to make tasty milk for everyone to enjoy!