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txbikergirl Posted - Feb 18 2016 : 6:44:16 PM
Well drying off time is fast approaching as miss sally o'mally's calf is due may 9th!

I can't find anything on HJO about drying off a cow and what everyone prefers as far as methodology. Also can't find any specifics in MCK so wanted to pick everyone's brains. I am purposely ignoring the methods using pharmaceuticals to accomplish this.

There seem to be different ways to approach this:
- cold turkey. just stop milking.
- slow stop. milk out less each day for a week, leaving some milk in the teats each day. production will decrease accordingly and then you can just stop after a week or so.
- alternate stop. skip one day milking, then milk mostly out, then skip two days, then milk mostly out, etc. production will decrease and after a week or so you can stop milking.

i do consistently read that you should stop feeding grain ASAP with this process. it seems logical as that helps increase production.

any thoughts?
25   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
txbikergirl Posted - May 24 2016 : 7:29:01 PM
i am updating my thread here to say the most important thing i have learned in this process: do NOT dry off a cow without having a final ultrasound or pregnancy test to reconfirm the pregnancy. even if you confirmed the pregnancy earlier, drying off a cow is a long-term decision that is even much longer if you find out your cow is not pregnant and not going to deliver on the timeline you thought. if you are a newbie, this is a good idea ;> chubby cows on fresh spring pasture can gain weight and look pregnant to the uneducated eye. ask me how i know this.

this may not have changed my outcome, as the cow may have miscarried after i dried her off, but if i had had that additional confirmation it would have been a clue to know when she miscarried and to decipher any previously unknown causes. so it can come in handy even if your cow miscarries post dry-off.
maryjane Posted - May 04 2016 : 05:39:16 AM
When I think back, way back, to 1979 when I was milking Rosie, I can't believe how MUCH I didn't know. Truly, every day I learn something new from my girls. I especially love the behavioral things I'm learning--HOW to allow them to communicate with me. I feel like, even if I live to 100, there won't be enough time.
txbikergirl Posted - May 03 2016 : 7:42:05 PM
keeley thanks for posting your progress, its so helpful for me to consider for next time. and everyone is so right, there really isn't just one way to do this.

one thing i wanted to post for other newbies, i realized later on what is now a key indicator to me that i should have known things were ok. when you look at that udder, when you are milking and it is full of milk it is full at the TOP as well as the bottom - think about how when you clean pre-milking you have to slip your hand in between the folds of her udder and legs to get all the creases... even after milking you have to work into the folds with your dynamint.

but when dried off, even when her udder seemed too full from afar - the reason it is so swishy and swingy is that it isn't full at the TOP. looking at her from behind, you can see space between the udder top and her legs. it isn't all full back there.

now it seems obvious to me, looking at old photos and such. but i was so focused looking down during the dry off that i didn't notice the top of it and how different it was. so now i know. i 'll post pictures another day if i can find them, that way i'll be able to look back at this time next year when i go through the same process ;>
farmlife Posted - Apr 29 2016 : 5:06:42 PM
Elli's udder is finally looking like it is going down to "normal" if you will. Her back two teats are close to touching. Happy days. I did end up giving her mastoblast for a full 10 days and it seems as if we are on the other side of the dry off. My plan now is to turn her out to pasture with no supplemental hay and monitor her closely for potential issues, but I really do believe the end is in sight. I think for Elli it might be a full month after I stopped before she is "loose and swinging" but now I know to expect that from her for next time. We are on day number 17 now.
CloversMum Posted - Apr 24 2016 : 10:26:23 PM
Time, experience, and observation of our animals is the very best key to all of this is what I'm hearing from those of you who have gone through a drying up period with your cows. Thank you!
farmlife Posted - Apr 24 2016 : 10:09:11 PM
I relate to what everyone is saying. As a nursing mom I did exactly what MaryJane said. I cut a feeding here and there until we were down to one and it was still brutal to wean them entirely. It's the same with Elli. You can't really milk a cow less than once a day and we were down to that. Then I changed her diet to reduce production even more. I felt like if I kept going with her for too much longer on just grass hay that it wouldn't be good for her body condition, so why not try to shock her udder into not producing more milk? I had it in my head that the process would take less time for her that way and that she would be dried up and out to pasture in no time.

However, having now done it that way with Elli I can say that I think the glitch in my planning was that Elli's udder can hold a lot of milk. If I was getting about a gallon each day at milking I think it took her about 4 days to reach the point where her udder was bursting at the seams. So that shock happened about that far along into the process. Then it took about another 4 days for her body to start reducing what was remaining in her udder. She is still consistently getting softer and smaller each day and she isn't leaking anymore, so I won't disturb her plugs by milking. She does generally form plugs on all four teats equally. Each day when milking I had to make a point to "pop" her teats open if you will. Next time I dry her off I think it will work better to decrease her little by little in addition to adjusting her feed, but I do believe either way the process will be about the same length of time. It may just be less stressful one way over the other.

I don't know that there's a "right" way the first time out with our animals, Cindy. We just have to listen to them and see what works best. I expect that the third time I dry Elli off will be the most effective. I'll have tried two different ways by then and will know what works just for Elli. Until then I will just keep muddling my way through it to see what happens. Alex may be a totally different ball game when her time comes. We'll see.
CloversMum Posted - Apr 24 2016 : 12:11:47 PM
And, then you think "whew we made it to 18, only to discover that isn't the end!" In fact, sometimes it seems more involved and stressful than when the kids were little. :)

I do think you did a fine job, Cindy, in drying up Sally. I mean the end result was to have her dried up and ready for calving season. You accomplished that without any major problems or infections so you succeeded.

I think when we end up needing to dry up Clover, we'll cut down slowly as I've done with my goats. I relate to what MaryJane said about nursing children ... much less discomfort in slowly decreasing so production can ease as well. But each situation is different. I know which goats I would more easily abruptly stop milking and which ones I would need to move more slowly. It will be the same with the cows when the time comes.
txbikergirl Posted - Apr 24 2016 : 08:31:28 AM
thanks maryjane, that means a lot to me . i know i keep saying this, but it truly is a lot like raising children the first time around... you read too much, listen a lot, soak it all in, and then just try to do your best... and the circumstances are most likely not exactly like everyone else's experience so you tweak as you go and just hope you get the kids to 18 without doing great harm ;>
maryjane Posted - Apr 24 2016 : 06:48:43 AM
You did a great job drying Sally off, Cindy, and you care about her like the dickens--all of it wonderful and part of raising cows. My girls continue to give me opportunities to learn.
txbikergirl Posted - Apr 23 2016 : 5:46:13 PM
keeley i am so clueless here, what do i know??! i too found it a stressful experience as i just didn't know what i was doing and if i was going to make her sick. i honestly haven't found anything else up to this point stressful, so i was surprised how much i worried over this. i am not normally a worrier.

one other thing i'll do different next time during the drying off period is to NOT take sally to the milking parlor. that stimulates all things let down, and i didn't think of this at the time. sally too wanted to go to the milking parlor, but i think for her it was more the special time and special food she gets ;> the human of course thought it was good to continue the same routine, and to give her the special attention and extra grooming even when not milking.

once i saw swishyness and less tautness in those udders i felt better. now she is two weeks from calving and that udder is super taut again ... and i know it is normal but it does make me a bit nervous.

it is all so different for every cow, just like mary jane said. so we can each just do our best. and i believe the every day great health we have in our cows helps them weather some of the human errors we make.
maryjane Posted - Apr 23 2016 : 4:14:36 PM
Keeley, I know that if I'd completely stopped nursing my kids on a set day in order to wean them, I would have been in a world of hurt. I weaned them slowly while introducing solid foods. And in the process, quit producing so much milk. First I quit getting up with them in the night. Then I cut out the a.m. feeding. Eventually, I was down to once/day and then I quit.

We're told that the reason we're supposed to take or strip a cow's udder every time we milk, is to keep her producing X amount. Because if every day we leave a little, she'll produce that much less and over time we won't have the full volume she can give.

On the other hand, I've heard of cows who decided one day to wean their calf and use their back legs to shoo them away. There are parts to both methods that make sense to me. But again, every cow is different. Ha, and every owner:)

I have my fingers crossed she's pregnant.
farmlife Posted - Apr 23 2016 : 3:38:09 PM
Well, now I'm not sure what to do. It has been 10 days since I stopped milking. Elli was very engorged, Cindy, even though I had decreased her production by changing her diet. I would say that is expected with any form of dry off. While she is still full I wouldn't classify her as overly engorged anymore. I am starting to see creases in places that previously were bulging and her udder is softer. Since she is not leaking milk anymore and since it has been 10 days I think I will continue to monitor her for possible problems and make sure her udder continues to decrease in size, rather than to milk her out and remove the keratin plugs that may have formed.

Elli is going to be dry for a while, so I want to make sure she will be as healthy as she can be. I think next time I might try to take half of the milk she has and do that for three days, then cut that in half again for three days, and do that three times total before I stop milking after I have reduced her production with diet. I was shocked at how fast her milk built up. It has been very stressful for me because I don't know if I'm doing the right thing for Elli even if it works for other cows. Clearly it has been painful for her as well, I can't blame her there.

She seems to be happier since I contained her as far as udder management goes, but she has made it clear that she would rather be eating pasture with the other cows. Soon.

I haven't seen any signs of heat, MaryJane, but I haven't scheduled the vet's visit yet either. I'm not going to guess as to whether she is bred as it is entirely possible she is tricking me. :)
maryjane Posted - Apr 23 2016 : 3:11:53 PM
Keeley, in other words, if Elli is leaking milk, she doesn't have a plug. When I milk Miss Daisy, one of her front teats has a strong plug that seems to form daily. Getting that first bit of milk out is almost like having to pop her teat. On the other hand, her other front teat doesn't form a strong plug, if at all.
maryjane Posted - Apr 23 2016 : 2:58:23 PM
I'm going to say that it's important to remain flexible when drying off a cow and that observation is very important.

Two critical stages of the dry period when udder health is most at risk are: the first week after drying off and the week prior to calving. During the first critical stage, the udder’s natural defense mechanism − a keratin plug in the teat canal − is formed, while in the second stage, prior to calving, this plug slowly disappears in preparation for lactation. The keratin plug helps prevent bacteria from entering the teat canal during the dry period.

Good milk yield management at the point of drying off is very important because a high milk yield will increase the risk of developing a new intramammary infection by 100% after drying off. A high volume of residual milk in the udder will stimulate the white blood cells to concentrate on absorbing milk fat cellular debris and become less active in preventing bacteria from entering the udder. In addition, cows with a high milk volume at drying off have a weaker keratin plug compared to other cows due to delayed keratin plug formation in the teat canal.

Some cows do not form a keratin plug in the teat canal during the entire dry period.

txbikergirl Posted - Apr 23 2016 : 2:41:35 PM
keeley, thanks for posting that. i do know next time i'll make more drastic diet changes like you are discussing in order to reduce production prior to drying off. i made changes and thought they were good, but like my drying off i think they were too wimpy.

if you can read my post above about the natural teat plug and how we shouldn't milk after drying off; i read this after i milked her out a week later. if i had done everything else cold turkey then i wouldn't have milked again one last time - but visibly she was at that engourged state and i realized i created it so did my best to fix what i did. not like i totally botched it and endangered her or anything, but i was definitely a newbie despite all my reading and research and will try cold turkey next time.

i am interested to see how she ends up. it sounds like you are doing everything right. thanks for sharing.
maryjane Posted - Apr 23 2016 : 10:14:07 AM
Keeley, how are things today with Elli? Quite the learning curve. Did you decide to milk her one last time? Has she continued to get more relaxed now that you have her locked up? Are you thinking she's pregnant?
farmlife Posted - Apr 21 2016 : 8:54:54 PM
So we ended up officially drying Elli off a little earlier than I had planned because one of our other cows seemed to be having some issues and needed the corral. (She turned out to be fine.) I stopped milking a week ago yesterday and today is the first day that I felt like there was light at the end of the tunnel as far as her udder goes. She is still looking very full, but her teats are starting to show some signs of decreasing in size and I didn't see her leaking any milk tonight. Here are the things that I learned:

Elli feels strongly that if you are not going to milk and she is going to get engorged that there should be no touching of the udder for any reason. No washing off dirt, no dipping teats, nothing. A person should especially not try to do any of these things in the pasture (something that was previously okay).

Mixing vitamin C with dry hay is kind of tricky, as is dosing hay with Mastoblast, and spraying a cranky cow's nose with Mastoblast appears to be able to be done exactly one time as well. However, vitamin C will stick to the Mastoblast on the hay.

Ideally the dry off should be done in a situation where a person can control all the feed the cow is getting. I've found that the milking stanchion works the best for trying to make sure Elli actually takes in the feed that I'm putting vitamin C and Mastoblast in. If the vitamin C falls off the hay, then she is likely to be licking the bottom of the stanchion when she is done to get every last speck of hay anyway. She has a tendency to throw hay out of the feeder and then not eat what is on the ground, but I put a big plant pot next to the stanchion and anything she is able to throw out usually goes into it and I dump it back in for consumption. That's something I can't do when she has open space around her feeder in the corral or pasture.

I wasn't originally giving her the Mastoblast, just the vitamin C. However, when she wouldn't let me clean her up I was stressed out about bacteria possibly entering due to some wet weather creating extra stickiness and her teats being open because of the leaking. Now I know why doctors used to prescribe antibiotics for kids just to make the parents feel better. I'm on day 2.5 of Mastoblast.

Also, I foolishly thought that Elli would be more relaxed because she didn't have to be milked and she was getting a break. She may be when all is said and done, but right now she needs the routine. She needs to be handled in the stanchion because that is what she is used to. While she eats her dosed hay I brush her just like I would before milking normally. I've just been careful not to mess with her teats so she doesn't let down. I may be like Cindy, though, and milk her one final time just to empty her out. I'll see what the next couple of days brings and decide then. She has been much calmer about everything since I have her contained again.

I'm adding another corral to my farm wishlist.
NellieBelle Posted - Apr 12 2016 : 03:34:19 AM
Good link Keeley. Thank you. Like the article, I believe each cow is different. Nellie will require more effort drying off than Sienna. And I will go by amount of milk output and how the udder looks. I won't be drying her off for some time yet, as I don't plan on breeding her or Sienna back for a couple three months yet, and 2 months before calving would be end of Dec./Jan. Long time waiting for new calves. :( Anxious to hear what you learn about Alex and if Elli is bred.
farmlife Posted - Apr 11 2016 : 8:29:00 PM
We started Elli's dry off about a week ago. She was getting really fidgety during milking. I couldn't figure out why my always mellow cow was so fidgety and showing what I perceived as "attitude." It took me a few weeks to realize that the pasture had started greening up and growing again and as a result she was getting more to eat and her production was going up. (However, it wasn't enough food to cut her hay out entirely.) Instead of showing increased production in the milk bucket she was showing me that it was getting painful for her to hold the milk and let down was creating more pressure than usual. I had three choices. . . milk twice a day, dry her off, or try to control everything she ate. Since I know dry off was approaching anyway, I voted for that option along with heavily monitoring what she is eating.

A week ago I cut out all of Elli's alfalfa hay and substituted it with lower quality grass hay and pulled her out of the pasture. I found this article online and it made a lot of sense to me and seems to go along with what you are all saying.
I cut her grain in half, and then half again a few days later, and then stopped altogether. Elli went from giving 2.5 gallons a day to just under 1.5 in a week. She is now to the point that I think I could stop milking and she would be fine. The amazing part is that her "attitude" is all gone too. The let down is no longer super intense for her. I kept wondering what she was trying to tell me. Now I know for next time. One thing I don't feel comfortable with is not giving her salt or mineral during or after dry off. I also probably will add grain back in at some point after she is dried off as well, but take it away as she gets close to calving to prevent milk fever. After all, I want her body condition to improve and give her a good rest.

I totally agree with Janet in that Elli's udder looks really good (loose and floppy) and then when I take her in to milk she lets down and looks crazy full. I think that unless she gives me a reason to do otherwise I will continue to milk for a few more days to see if her production can drop even more and stop milking on Friday. After about a week if everything looks good I will send her back out to pasture.

I still don't know when Alex is due, she is showing some signs of starting to get ready, but I would guess we have a while yet. I think I found another vet and I'm hoping to have and ultrasound done on Alex for a due date and get a confirmation or not on whether or not Elli is bred. Then I can kind of plan ahead as far as when to give grain, not to give grain, etc.
txbikergirl Posted - Apr 10 2016 : 12:26:56 PM
i am going to follow your lead next time janet. unless of course circumstances are totally different and i am confused more than every :> he he he but i do know now that under these circumstances i should just go cold turkey like you.
NellieBelle Posted - Apr 10 2016 : 11:00:55 AM
Sounds good Cindy. I just did Sienna. She was down to 1-2 gallons a day, and Joe and I don't need the milk so I decided to dry her up. I know each person on here is going to do it differently. I go according to my cows. I've come to know what their udders feel like, look like and what to expect when I look at them before milking. I don't cut down on my feed or hay that much, but some. But that's just me. And when I dry them up, I stop. Keep and eye on them, I don't even do the CMT unless I think or feel somethings off. Knock on my head, I haven't had any problems. My AI guy told me if you mess back and forth with them, they think you're still wanting to milk and they will keep producing. Stopping gives that realization "Oh! don't need to produce milk," if not needed and the weight of the udder, they just stop producing. If I felt I needed to cut down on feed or hay I would but I haven't had to. And I never cut down water intake. You will find what works best for you as time goes on. Each cow is different to. Nellie is more of a challenge but she did fine doing it that way too. I had trouble until the AI guy told me to just stop, he said I was confusing her both psychologically and physically. (I was doing the CMT twice daily, and he said as long as I messed with her she would think I was going to milk.) So I did stop, and she dried up in about 3 days time.
txbikergirl Posted - Apr 09 2016 : 7:56:27 PM
so i have been doing further reading on the drying off process since i did it the last month, as i wanted to learn from my experience and determine now (while it was fresh in my mind) what i would do different next time.

in "keeping a family cow", "if... she is giving twenty pounds or less (two and a half gallons) of milk each day , simply stop milking. cut out her grain and feed her your second rate hay. don't bring her into her milking area or do any of the things that encourage letdown.

that right there is what i had felt i should have done once i got too far along the process. the udder needs a shock, and getting 1-2 gallons a day isn't enough to do the "taper off" process with drying off. cold turkey is the ticket under these circumstances.

what i also thought was really neat, "within a week to ten days it should stay flabby. don't test it by taking a few squirts, as the teats will have formed an antibacterial plug that should be left in place.". thats phenomonal, nature knows what to do. and thats why you want to get the drying off right as you don't want to be wimpy like me and then have to milk seven days later because you didn't get the right shock.

i have been reading in a couple of places to move the cow to just hay and grazing when drying off, and then keep her on that for the two months prior to calving to avoid milk fever. all the holistic tomes seem to agree . "dairy farming the beautiful way" talks about drying off in winter to prep for spring calving, "return your cows to the pasture...the remaining scant bits of low quality forage will be perfect for drying off your cows. you cannot dry off your cows while feeding them dairy quality hay.".

anyway, my plan next time is to go cold turkey and let mother nature do her job. i got the gradual diet change working up to drying off down, just now the actual drying off process ;>
txbikergirl Posted - Mar 24 2016 : 11:48:21 AM
sally is going GREAT may jane, just swishy and soft as they should be. my peace of mind is back.

i have decided to go cold turkey with milking her next time if the production is down to 1-1.5 gallons. then i will wait 5-6 days, test and milk all out. and done. it just makes the most sense to me given how nature works, and if she cut her calf off it would be cold turkey. but i think i'll cut back her grain and other stuff two weeks prior to get that steady before, and to see what her "real" production is before drying off.

i have to tell you once i did that last milking sally really relaxed and became herself again. is it because i took her back up to the parlor and she got special attention? or because i was over worried about the process and she picked up on that and reflected it to me? or perhaps she needed that last milking and wasn't happy until she got it? or the human is just waaaay over thinking the process? i don't know...

its all tremendously fascinating for me. nature is amazing.
maryjane Posted - Mar 24 2016 : 08:15:47 AM
Hoping all is still swishy with Sally. Having dried off quite a few cows over time, I think I'm guilty of beginner's luck initially such that once I started to really contemplate it, I was probably more confident than I should have been. In all these years, I'd never had a case of mastitis until I brought Fanci home and then recently Miss Daisy kept getting mastitis in one of her quarters. How's that for weighing in Cindy?:)

To be slightly more scientific about it, I think in every case I probably took about half one morning, half the next, half again the next day, waited a few days, tested, took a tad more, tested, tested, and then called it good. I didn't cut back on feed thinking I didn't want to have any more disruption than necessary to her daily routine, plus she's in the later stages of pregnancy and needing plenty of nutrition for that purpose. I do know that I monitor grain and feed uptake closely based on body condition. The beauty of a cow is that when they start looking too skinny, it's easily remedied, like in a day or two. It's how they tell you they need more food. Once my cows are dried off I can tell by their body mass whether or not to slowly cut back once they quit giving milk. But at that moment in time, they're also feeding a fetus that is going to put on its most growth in the last two months. I'm intrigued with the one last milking you did Cindy and want to try that next time. It makes sense that once they've stopped production, you might as well clean it out so they don't have to put energy into reabsorbing it.
txbikergirl Posted - Mar 23 2016 : 06:46:46 AM
if nothing else charlene, it lets other newbies know what NOT to do ;>

its been four days since the final milking, sally's udder is just gorgeous. has a bit of fullness, but swishy and roomy. not full like it was before, essentially after i milked that day w/in 24 hours it just looked healthy and hasn't changed since. and since then, she has gotten even more affectionate with me. thinking she is happy with the direction i went. only time will tell.