Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Big day - drying up the cows

I've written about drying up the cows before, in 2011 and 2012.  Drying them up means we don't milk them from now until they have a calf.  It gives them a period of rest to get their bodies ready for birthing and producing milk. 

This day is always a big deal around here - we plan for it way ahead of time, we look forward to it, and Kris helps in the milk parlor for both milkings.  It's a long day!

Here's how it works:

First, they push on the right side of a cow's stomach to see if they can feel a calf.  The cows are about seven months pregnant, give or take a few months, so they can normally feel the calf. 

If she's pregnant, they give her an antibiotic shot in each teat of her udder to prevent infection.  (She won't be milked again for at least a month, so the antibiotic will be out of her system long before she is milked again.  For more about how antibiotics are not in your milk at all, read here.)

They finish by putting a sealant called T-HEXX on her teats, which prevents bacteria from entering them.

They mark them (Kris described it as 'coloring on them') with a cow marker on their hind quarter to separate the dry cows from the cows that are still being milked.  (They'll find some that aren't pregnant or are not as far along in their pregnancies, and we'll continue to milk them.)  The vet is coming to check the remaining ones tomorrow. 

I was explaining this to a friend this afternoon and she asked if all farmers were doing this today.  We're a seasonal dairy farm, which means that all our cows have calves at the same time.  Some dairies have calves year round.  So they dry up individual cows on different schedules.

But for us, today's the big day.  So big, that Kris is falling asleep as I read this to him.


Marilyn said...

Interesting. I guess I didn't realize you did them all at once. Has it always been this way?Any way, thanks for the good read.

Carla said...

Marilyn - Thanks! We've done it this way the six years we've been farming. My parents did it this way when they transitioned to pasture. My dad says 1992.

rschett said...

What you really need on a busy day is visiting relatives to show around the farm! Thanks, it was fun.