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txbikergirl Posted - Nov 22 2015 : 12:18:11 PM
we have seen a substantial milk decrease this week, and i think it might be a newbie mistake that i am rectifying today.

last sunday we milked and got well over a gallon. big milk day for us, as usually with calf still on momma we are normally getting about 2/3 gallon. other than a bit of an increase here and there, our milk production has been constant and stable since we brought her home 6 weeks ago.

monday was the huge storm, where i had to milk at an odd time and the storm was howling during milking and i got one pint of milk. nervous cow and all so didn't seem too worrisome, and i just put calf in with momma for a morning session that day to ensure udder was taken care of.

well tuesday i got about a quart of milk, and wed/thurs/fri/sat we got 2 pints each day. just under a quart. pathetic. all four teats flowed nicely, just not a lot of milk in any of them.

we haven't changed any food/diet in this time, still on pasture same amount of time, in fact no changes in even the bales or bags of food as we had stocked up feed bins the wednesday before and she was still eating from those same exact bags of food... so wondering what it could be. and both cows are eating same diet from those bags/bins and both are consuming so don't think it is the food.

last night in researching and re-reading "keeping a family cow" i came across water comments while trying to focus on diet and grain comments. he states, "it is depressing to observe how often a potentially high-producing cow owned by a loving family and generously supplied with expensive feed fails to give the milk she could simply because she hasn't enough water". then goes on to say how a cow is thirstiest right after milking and will usually head straight for water. and that a cow interrupted in quenching her thirst will usually not resume drinking again for a long time and milk production will suffer. it takes ten gallons of water to produce 5 gallons of milk.

aaahh. lightbulb moment. we knew water was crucial before bringing cows home and so specifically put in bar bar waterers so i wouldn't have to haul water and ever leave them without a sufficient supply... but last week i accidentally screwed this system up.

last sunday in order to manage a calf chewing momma's teats and really seeing some damage we separated our pasture into two paddocks so momma and calf could be very close but just not nurse (both paddocks are still several acres each, so not confined at all). and in the process one of those paddocks didn't have access to the bar bar A waterer so we put a small trough in and filled it daily. that paddock was to be calf's, and momma would be in larger paddock with waterer.

but tuesday human (me) found that it was much easier to bring momma in and lock her into small paddock first and then bring calf in and let her loose in large paddock effortlessly (otherwise momma tried to meet up with calf and then both wanted to be in a paddock together).

so i just led momma into small paddock with small water trough, filled it full of water, and went on my way.

but i had noticed the two weeks prior that water intake of momma seemed much more, i had never noticed before that right after milking she went straight to waterer and spent 3 minutes with constant drinking. and i know that with distraction of new paddock and small water trough she NEVER did that last week - so she must be drinking substantially less water than before.

so today momma is back in the large paddock with waterer, and right after nursing when i took her in there she went straight to waterer and drank for a long time. and calf is in small paddock, and we have moved a larger water trough in there just to ensure in an emergency a large cow would have more than enough water and not be limited to a small trough.

we have been emptying the barn troughs every week, and it seems like they are drinking well out of them as we refill them during the week several times and water seems fresh.

so i'll keep monitoring the situation and let y'all know what happens. only other change we had last week was the fact that momma and calf are separated by an electric fence into two paddocks - but before they actually spent three hours a day separated across the farm while calf was in barn, so now they get more time w/in range although not together. thought this could effect a few days of milk production but not to this extent. we'll see.

if y'all have anything to add that i should be looking for let me know.

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txbikergirl Posted - Jan 07 2016 : 5:12:12 PM
thanks for the specific details, it helps me compare them all.

in the end i think i need to cut out the alfalfa pellets except for as a milking treat as sally really comes and goes with her love affair of them... and then i think i might be ok. i am going to talk to another local farmer next week and get their opinion on what i am doing given they also have cows on pasture right down the road.

i only think about it in gallons when i start adding it up as our feed buckets have quarts indicated. today i started experimenting and realized when you take a small chunk of chaffhaye and drop it in the bucket it is almost two gallons - it is fluffy and such. so what sounds like a large amount, once you start handling it really isn't.

i'll try not to obsess over this ;> you too keeley!!
maryjane Posted - Jan 07 2016 : 10:53:43 AM
I'll continue to pay attention to the grain amounts I feed. Yesterday, my girls that are producing milk got grain pellets in the a.m., usually as a function of milking. So Lacy Lou (pregnant with her first calf) doesn't get them every day but only when she's brought into the parlor for training. When that happens, she gets about 3 quarts (1 scoop).

Yesterday, Miss Daisy gobbled up about 3 scoops while being milked (2 gallons + 1 quart). She's a mini.

Fanci (full-size cow) has been struggling lately with some udder health issues and consequently I try to add things to her grain that I think might help her (Vit. C, baking soda, minerals) but then she gets picky, even if I sneak it into her Chaffhaye. At any rate, she ended up eating 3 scoops during milking, same as Miss Daisy. If nothing is put on it, she'll eat more.

Eliza Belle (mini) gets the same amount of grain pellets as Miss Daisy during her morning milking.

The "kids" (Ester Lily, Finnegan, Sweet William) get grain pellets morning, noon, and night (one scoop for the bigger kids, 1/2 for Finn) along with their regular serving of Chaffhaye and Timothy (usually Chaffhaye in the a.m./timothy for lunch, Chaffhaye for dinner).

Everyone gets either Chaffhaye or timothy for the three meals (they aren't fed free-choice), I meter it out somewhat according to their weight. When you have several cows of different ages, regulating who gets what gets a bit more tricky, the reason I'm not very exacting about it.
CloversMum Posted - Jan 07 2016 : 09:52:27 AM
After all this talk and laughing outloud when Keeley said "GALLONS?!" we are upping Clover's dairy pellets. We currently do not feed alfalfa pellets as all the cows get Chaffhaye which they love and I think they are getting enough of it at the moment.
farmlife Posted - Jan 06 2016 : 9:18:55 PM
I may be underfeeding, Cindy, so we're both learning.
txbikergirl Posted - Jan 06 2016 : 3:54:32 PM
ok, maybe i am feeding too much ;> i know the morning amounts about mirror what i fed at mary jane's when there, but i know one difference is that my "grain" is actually a whole seed/kernel dairy ration thing as opposed to just grain pellets - so she is getting minerals and other stuff in there.

she doesn't have the tail fat rolls that mary jane showed us so i feel good about that. and i too have been thinking about cutting back on alfalfa pellets like mary jane as the chaffhaye is a better alfalfa delivery system.

i'll sit back and process this and see what i think. we are feeding about twice as much supplemental feed now as we were when they arrived, and it made sense to me because they aren't getting the same nutrition in the winter pasture as they did the fall pasture... but i really need to run this by someone local and see what they think.... hummmm
CloversMum Posted - Jan 06 2016 : 09:10:42 AM
Oh great ... now I've just read about all of your cows and their bloat which means I'll get to experience it too with my own cows. :-) Isn't that just the way? You start reading about something or learning something new and, voila!, it then happens to you?? Knock on wood, it won't happen. But at least I'll know some things to do. I'm sure Ethan will be learning so much information when he's working on MJ's farm, that he'll come home and fine-tune our own cow care which makes me happy.
NellieBelle Posted - Jan 06 2016 : 08:07:28 AM
I know and it's a bit unnerving when you see your cow that huge. I've only had the one incident where Sienna got down and had labored breathing, thought I would probably lose her. I called the vet, but that's the time I started pushing on her and trying to get her to get up, anyway, when the vet got here she was better and back up on her feet, and looked like nothing happened. Made me look the fool, but that's okay, I'd do it again. Yes, I'm happy with both my cows. Thank you Keeley, I think all of our cows are quite special. I enjoy seeing photos and updates of everyone's cows. It's a good and satisfying feeling.
farmlife Posted - Jan 06 2016 : 07:46:05 AM
Elli has had a few days where she came in from summer pasture having eaten herself Moby Dick like too, Janet. Nellie sounds like the perfect cow. She gives lots of milk and is super healthy and sweet to boot. Oh, and her calves are stunning!
NellieBelle Posted - Jan 06 2016 : 07:04:51 AM
Yes, and if that gas doesn't find a release it's a dead beached whale.
maryjane Posted - Jan 06 2016 : 06:43:31 AM
Moby Dick made me laugh out loud. And a beached whale when laying down.
NellieBelle Posted - Jan 06 2016 : 06:33:04 AM
Yes, the cows are different. I have Nellie and Sienna on the same pasture, and Sienna will eat until she looks like Moby Dick, so I have to be sure and get her the sodium bicarbonate. She is just prone to bloat whether it's from feed/alfalfa pellets, alfalfa/grass hay or pasture. She just bears watching. The next time she bloats up I will get a picture and post. It's most alarming, but I'm getting where I don't get quite so concerned. I've never seen it happen to Nellie. And they are fed about the same amounts when I feed them, and the hay/alfalfa, Sienna will eat her share, and will even push Nellie out of the way.
farmlife Posted - Jan 06 2016 : 05:51:46 AM
Oh my gosh! Did you all just say GALLONS!?!? Now I'm wondering if Elli is getting totally ripped off by the person feeding her. I have to think about how much a gallon is as far as feed goes. Part of what you are feeding is alfalfa pellets, though, right? Elli gets her alfalfa through hay since she despises (that's really not too strong of a word for how she feels) alfalfa pellets. I can occasionally get her to eat a cow cookie, but that is as far as it goes. I think Elli looks pretty good right now, but now I'm going to have to do more research. She is a more finicky eater, though. I know that she's not getting enough food if she eats all her alfalfa stems at milking. That tells me that she's really hungry and so after milking I usually go get her more grass hay. While I milk she usually throws the alfalfa hay around so that the leaves fall off and them pushes the stems out of her way to get the leaves. She'll do the same with grass hay. She throws it around to see if she can get any seeds to fall off then she pushes the stems to the side of the trough and eats them last.

I do know that with a lot of grain Elli will bloat as once she snuck into the chicken coop and helped herself to the chicken feed. I don't remember if it is a 12 or a 15 pound feeder. (Not pointing any fingers as to who left the door of the coop open, but it wasn't me.) In Elli's defense, the chicken food looked like her food since I get it from the same company. It's just a different balance of nutrients. She was happy to help the chickens eat it. I watched her very carefully afterward and made a point to only give her a small amount of grass hay, but it scared me. She definitely bloated some. All cows are definitely different. It's interesting to find out what they need and then adjust from there.
NellieBelle Posted - Jan 05 2016 : 8:02:22 PM
Just similar to people. We are all different. Just comes with knowing our cows and what they need. Each different. It would be difficult to treat each cow as if they were all the same. Sienna has a tendency to bloat, so I really have to watch her and what she consumes whereas Nellie can eat the same and look under fed. Then add the calves, nursing which requires more from them, and milking, cold weather, it's a balancing act. Just constant vigilance monitoring their body condition. :/ Cow kisses are always good. Makes it all worth it doesn't it?
maryjane Posted - Jan 05 2016 : 7:34:36 PM
I'm trying to picture what I feed in terms of gallons. I grab X amount or scoop X amount every day for the most part. I suppose you could say I feed somewhat intuitively with routine adjustments based on weather and availability of pasture. I will pay more attention this week to what I'm feeding. Maybe grab an empty gallon can:) I don't mix the Chaffhaye and grain but could. Like Janet, I feed the minerals as a seasoning. I feed kelp free-choice. I no longer feed the alfalfa pellets because I think the Chaffhaye supplies that and it's probably easier on their teeth. The last truckload of timothy I got wasn't so great--lots of fines in it, so I've upped the amount of Chaffhaye I give.

Can a cow get fat? We know horses can be overfed and I think some cows can. But they're all so different. Miss Daisy can eat and eat and eat and never gets fat. I lock her up in her own shelter every night so I can feed her more. She's an amazing milk producer for her size, plus she's pregnant, due the same day as Sally.

Rosetta had a great metabolism and so does Lacy Lou. No weight issues with them and no food obsessions.

Fanci doesn't get any exercise and likes food too much so I have to meter hers out (she gets locked up separately also every night). Plus I've been giving her a fair amount of baking soda. More on that another time. I'm still struggling with her udder dermatitis. I got most of her original places cleared up but now it's showing up elsewhere on her udder and her back legs.

I felt like there was a time Sally was packing a few too many pounds based on the rolls in the top of her tail and the fat puffs on either side of her tail. But it didn't take long to bring them down in size by cutting back just a tad. Sally has a good metabolism.

The one I worry about is Eliza Belle. In fact, I'm putting up another shelter so I can feed her entirely separately. She's going on a diet here pretty quick. I thought she was putting on too much weight when she was about five months pregnant. I made a trip to WSU just for her. We took stool and blood samples and one of the vets examined her pointing out different places on her body that indicated that she wasn't dangerously overweight--essentially I was told not to worry. But her weight and the extent to which she enjoys/craves food continued. If she doesn't get more food than I think she needs, she starts eating her straw bedding. Even after her delivery, she still has fat puffs on either side of her tail. Her weight is the reason I transferred her to my stock trailer for her delivery because it just didn't feel right. Turns out I was right because the calf probably couldn't get into position for delivery--not enough room to turn itself, even though it only weighed 34 pounds. Like Julie pointed out, "On the one hand, your judgment to bring her in was called into question but in the next breath you were asked to do your first ever vaginal exam and judge whether or not she was good to deliver." That's one of the reasons I'm not going to breed her again anytime soon because I wouldn't feel right putting a pregnant cow on a diet. I want to see her lose some weight, plus I need time to figure her food out. Apparently, I'm talking English and she speaks Spanish. Today I was climbing around beneath Fanci taking a series of photos of her udder and EB was right there totally in my business, giving me kisses pretty much non-stop. She's pure sweetness that girl.
NellieBelle Posted - Jan 05 2016 : 6:17:22 PM
I don't have any issues with milk quantity, I don't feed the amount of grain and alfalfa pellets you feed. I would be afraid Nellie and Sienna would bloat on that much grain and alfalfa pellets. My gals get about 1.25 gal. of feed/alfalfa mixed once in a.m. and once in p.m. And of course their grass/alfalfa hay. Their minerals, kelp etc. added like seasoning. Love learning what others do. Sure would like to have pasture now, but it's a few months off. So grass hay and alfalfa it is.
txbikergirl Posted - Jan 05 2016 : 5:42:43 PM
keeley, thanks for the details. i don't have any reason to think i am not feeding sally right, but i am second guessing myself on it now as i don't want to mess something up...

when she first arrived she looked amazingly fat every night when leaving the pasture. it was seriously noticeable. being a newbie i was freaking out about bloat the first few days we left her on pasture all day as she looked as if she gained 50lbs each day, but come morning she was normal sally. now she doesn't look that fat each night so i am assuming that the pasture isn't providing as much for her - she grazes all day, its all green and good, but obviously the same goodness isn't blooming in the winter as in the summer so we would expect less from the pasture now.

right now we free feed grass hay all night, and she eats about 1/4 bale each night (regular square bales). i feed her 4 gallons of food total each morning for breakfast and milking, equal amounts grain/chaffhaye and only about 10% of it alfalfa pellets. and patrick feeds her 1.5 gallons of grain, 2 gallons of alfalfa pellets, and 4 gallons of chaffhaye each evening ... we have increased the evening amounts up to this just the last month as she was licking her dinner bowl clean. this seems the mix she likes, we have worked it around a bit to find out what seemed to be working for her as far as her desires.

maybe mary jane can also weigh in on what she thinks about the mix. i know cows are like dogs or people, some you can free feed and they will gourge whereas some will just eat what they need ... elsa so far is the latter so we gauge her food by what she eats, but sally has almost always eaten everything we have given her so i am not sure if she is the former or the latter ;> not sure if i can overfeed sally or not.
CloversMum Posted - Jan 05 2016 : 09:25:52 AM
Thank you, Keeley, for being so detailed about your feeding. That really helps. I appreciate your effort and close attention to Elli so that she stays in great body condition. That also comes over time as we get to know our animals.
farmlife Posted - Jan 04 2016 : 8:32:11 PM
If Elli bred the last time she was AIed, Cindy, then she will be due Sept 5. She calved last at the end of April. What I learned about my big girl the last time she calved is that she loses body condition very easily, so I was hoping to give her a good break at the end of her pregnancy to focus on growing the calf and not producing milk as well. I was thinking that I would dry her off in May and then she would have June, July, and August to rest up before she calved again. It would be about a year of milking before drying her off. Those will be our best pasture months as well so that would be good for her as well. But, that means a long time for us without milk and the kids will be on summer vacation. My kids do their best eating and growing during summer. ;) The cow I was looking at buying turned out not to be bred which I was thinking was a bad thing, but now I'm wondering if it would be ideal to have a cow in milk now that I could breed in a few months to rotate when she and Elli do their thing. So far I haven't had any trouble giving away extra milk and I think I'm finally mastering mozzarella. Still thinking about what would work as far as a second cow goes. They'll probably sell her while I think.

Charlene, Elli had free choice pasture until it was consumed this fall, so the mystery was trying to figure out how much hay was needed to replace what she was eating since we weren't sure. (Clearly at first we had no idea since she dropped production so much.) Plus we had to get all the supplemental nutrition from 2 milkings into 1. We literally just doubled the grain ration so that she was getting all of it in one serving instead of 2. For Elli that is a little less than two cool whip containers (very technical measuring device) of grain. We feed straight alfalfa hay during milking. What seems to work well for her is about a 3-4 inch flake of alfalfa hay, depending on the temperature outside. When it's really cold I might push the size a little. The rest of the time we give Elli grass hay. She gets about a 12 inch chunk of grass hay twice a day in addition to what she gets at milking. We use the small square bales if that gives you kind of an idea. Remember that Elli is a big girl. As far as I know the only bigger cow anyone has here on the chatroom is MaryJane's Fanci. I think when she was pregnant last time we under fed her without realizing it because she was big with the calf. I'm trying to focus more on overall body condition during all stages as I learn. Elli gives so generously to us. It seems only right to keep her in the best shape possible.

Tonight I got about 3 pints less milk when she's been so consistent for a while, so either she's decreasing due pregnancy (fingers crossed) or I haven't been feeding her enough more with the cold weather. Time will tell.
CloversMum Posted - Jan 03 2016 : 5:20:48 PM
Another reason to plan for a spring calf ... spring gardening.

I also find that, although I miss the milk, I do like the break from daily milking. I'm not milking any goats right now and I'm enjoying it. Now, I'll be ready to get back to it come March. That will be a busy time ... milking goats and cows, birthing goat kids, bottle feeding some, but it will be spring!
txbikergirl Posted - Jan 03 2016 : 4:30:54 PM
keeley, when do you dry her off? we are looking at late march for sally as she is due may 9th. so about 6 weeks without milking i suppose.

i am going to do a slow churn of some milk in the next few weeks and freeze that to see if lover boy will tolerate it thawed. if so i'll put 10 gallons or so of it back that way. he's the pickiest milk drinker i have ever encountered, he's like one of those wine nuts with milk. so now that we have primo milk he won't tolerate anything less.

the one positive about not milking for a bit - the timing will be good as i can seriously focus on the summer garden with the extra time. that way i can get ahead of it before baby arrives.
txbikergirl Posted - Jan 03 2016 : 4:25:51 PM
its easy to be jealous of our green pastures right now, so mary jane why don't you come visit in august when it is 90 with 90% humidity 24/7 ;> and we can't go stroll the pastures at night too freely as the wild pigs/boar are out and dangerous. no joke. i personally don't carry a gun large enough to kill a boar, that's lover boy's job.

we all have such lovely farms, and all have pros and cons. the con to me for an idaho farm would be that i wouldn't have lover boy, he doesn't do snow ;> so i'll keep my little farmstead in texas with my lover boy. even with the damn snakes and wild pigs. he's worth it.

i will add that i think sally is really enjoying the green pastures during winter! but i do need to do more research, i need to know more about what the true nutrition content is for what they are munching in the pasture now as i am sure i should be compensating more now for what they need. but we have free feed dry hay all night long, and we keep upping their chaffhaye/alfalfa pellet/dairy feed supplementals to see how much they want of it.
CloversMum Posted - Jan 03 2016 : 3:17:15 PM
Keeley, I see more than one cow in your future!

And, yes, this time of year it is extremely easy to be envious of Cindy's pastures. Then, I remember her post regarding feed bunks and keeping hiding spots to a minimum for all the snakes that they have down in Texas. NO THANK YOU! I'll keep feeding my cows hay and Chaffhaye, thank you very much. :-) Cindy is braver than I.

Keeley, can you tell us what you did exactly when you tweaked Elli's food to get her back up to two gallons a day? What was your ratio of hay/alfalfa/grain/etc?
farmlife Posted - Jan 03 2016 : 12:42:17 PM
I'm envious of Cindy's pasture for sure. We didn't realize how quickly Elli's milk production would change this fall when we were out of pasture. She went from 4 gallons a day to 1. The good news is that it created an opportunity to go from milking twice a day down to once a day. Then we tweaked her food (when to give grass hay vs. alfalfa and how much grain) and got her back up to two gallons a day. Milking once a day and getting 2 gallons is just about perfect for us. I'm still wondering what we are going to do when we dry Elli off, though.
maryjane Posted - Jan 03 2016 : 12:18:56 PM
I keep messing with my cows' feed to figure out how to increase production this time of year. Right now I'm trying more Chaffhaye and less timothy. You know what they say around here, Charlene; the grass is always greener ... in the spring. Don't you envy Cindy?
CloversMum Posted - Jan 02 2016 : 2:03:14 PM
Good for you in getting Sally back up to full production! Our pasture is very frozen under several inches of snow right now. I have briefly heard of people getting their cows to graze through the winter, even through the snow but the big concern is still getting enough water. I don't really understand it though...we'll wait for spring and green grass.