Since we started milking again this year, we’ve elected to go with the most simple form of milking which is getting your milk cow up early in the morning, milking her once, and then leaving her on pasture the rest of the day with her calf. The theory is that the calf is snoozing overnight and not nursing. Momma is happily snoozing in the grass as well and making milk all night. Once we milk in the morning, the calf gets the scraps but has all day to nurse and catch up on her nutrition. Everybody wins and the handling is very minimal for everybody.
The downsides to this method is the calf is getting a lot of the milk, maybe more than half but if you are just milking for your family that’s ok. Plus if you need to go out of town, you simply don’t milk and the calf takes care of everything. A nice, low stress way to have a milk cow and it works, most of the time. However Lightning, we have learned, is an early riser. Some days we get almost two gallons of milk, some days considerably less. But after two days of milking a completely empty cow (less than an ounce) at 5:30am, we switched to the next level of milking. Now every afternoon Dottie gets put into one of our barn stalls while Lightning stays with the herd in the pasture. She is kept from the calf overnight and the calf cannot nurse. Dottie is now milking a solid 1 1/2 gallons every morning and going out to Lightning for the rest of the day. This means we have to deal with the cow both in the morning and the evening, and we have to clean a stall every day so the workload had gone up. However we are back in the milk/cheese/butter/yogurt business because we now have consistent supply of milk, so it all works out.