Finding The Sweet Spot In Milking Frequency

The way things used to be – cows were milked twice a day, morning and night. Milking technology has since developed where the cow can decide when and how often she wants to be milked. What does the frequency of her milking mean for production? That’s what the UW Dairy Innovation Hub has been exploring.

Erin Kammann is a Madison native educated at UW-Platteville before earning a master’s degree from UW-Madison. Her love for animals started in the 4-H, and she continued that love through research with the UW Dairy Innovation Hub.

Her research project looked at milking frequency with modern farm technology — robotics or automated milking systems. This is unique as most milking frequency studies used traditional milking parlors.

Kammann found that increasing milking frequency for fresh cows – right after a cow has a calf – can have a carryover effect of higher milk production. This means that once you go back to normal milking frequency, the cow will have higher milk production during the rest of her lactation.

Specifically, the research milked a fresh cow six times a day and three times a day. Six times a day over a long period of time can have a negative impact on the cow. She’ll start using her own fat reserves to make milk. It’s also a labor strain on the farm.

However, if you milk a cow upwards of six times a day for a short period of time right after she calves – says 30 days – you’ll see an increase of 9 kilograms of milk per day or 20 pounds of milk throughout the rest of her lactation, Kammann says.

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