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dreamsofnever
03-21-2009, 02:26 AM
This might or might not be a dumb question.

In my WIP, I've just realized that I have my characters milk cows in the winter.

As I am pretty clueless about the day to day life of a farmer, and about the care of cows...

How realistic is this? Do farmers milk their cows in the winter?


Why no, I'm not from Wisconsin, the dairy state. If I was, I would/should know this... :o (or maybe I am and have no excuse. :))

veinglory
03-21-2009, 02:32 AM
In the US some farms are seasonal and others milk all year round.

StephanieFox
03-21-2009, 02:35 AM
Modern, with-it cows go inside the barn in the winter. They are milked by milking machines. In the old days, if you only had one or two cows, they'd go into the barn in the winter and maybe outside in the summer.

Moo! Moo!

http://classes.ansci.uiuc.edu/ansc438/Mastitis/milkmachine.html

scarletpeaches
03-21-2009, 02:35 AM
If you milk a cow in winter, ice cream comes out.

semilargeintestine
03-21-2009, 02:40 AM
I'm beginning to see a theme to your posts.

GeorgeK
03-21-2009, 02:46 AM
This might or might not be a dumb question.

In my WIP, I've just realized that I have my characters milk cows in the winter.

As I am pretty clueless about the day to day life of a farmer, and about the care of cows...

How realistic is this? Do farmers milk their cows in the winter?


Why no, I'm not from Wisconsin, the dairy state. If I was, I would/should know this... :o (or maybe I am and have no excuse. :))

Fall veal (for the cow) means winter milking (for the farmer).

scarletpeaches
03-21-2009, 02:46 AM
I just got a rep point assuring me brown cows give chocolate ice cream, so ner ner ner ner ner. I was right.

semilargeintestine
03-21-2009, 02:49 AM
I just got a rep point assuring me brown cows give chocolate ice cream, so ner ner ner ner ner. I was right.

:ROFL:

Puma
03-21-2009, 03:01 AM
How would people have had milk for their families and cooking in the old days if they didn't milk during the winter? Puma

semilargeintestine
03-21-2009, 03:11 AM
They'd walk 27km uphill both ways to the shop.

scarletpeaches
03-21-2009, 03:12 AM
I'd like to know what the hell the first guy to milk a cow thought he was doing.

GeorgeK
03-21-2009, 03:14 AM
How would people have had milk for their families and cooking in the old days if they didn't milk during the winter? Puma

sour cream

aka stroganoff

GeorgeK
03-21-2009, 03:18 AM
I'd like to know what the hell the first guy to milk a cow thought he was doing.

Don't worry Mrs Aurauch! I didn't eat your calf and stick its skin on my head just to fool you or just to get something to eat when the sun is so low that I can't even see it...No, I'm your calf...just let me suck on...


...Not going to continue...

dreamsofnever
03-21-2009, 03:32 AM
If you milk a cow in winter, ice cream comes out.

:ROFL:Good point, Scarlet!

How would people have had milk for their families and cooking in the old days if they didn't milk during the winter? Puma

Common sense speaks :) Thanks, Puma!

I think I've been living in the city too long, hence my silly question...


And thank you everyone for the answer! Whew. I don't have to rewrite anything now! Except maybe to specify that the barn is heated.

Anyone else have the problem of momentarily forgetting the season their story is currently in? :D

Chase
03-21-2009, 04:26 AM
In the 1940s and '50s, I lived on a farm near Big Timber, Montana. My grandfather, two uncles, and I milked four or five Holstein cows morning and evening every day. We did not have milking machines.

We fed whole milk to motherless calves and lambs. We separated leftover milk, sold the cream in town, drank skim milk ourselves, and fed any left over skim milk to hogs.

Our stone barn wasn't heated, but was at least ten degrees warmer inside than out.

We fed all our cattle and sheep alfalfa hay daily during winter, and milk cows got extra hay and a half gallon ration of ground oats or corn at each milking.

During severe cold, milk cows bedded in the barn, and other animals took shelter in sheds.

dreamsofnever
03-21-2009, 11:02 AM
Thanks Chase! And brrr.... an unheated barn...

But seriously, thanks for the insight!

jclarkdawe
03-21-2009, 04:12 PM
For winter milking, think Bag Balm, chapped hands, chapped teats, and if you don't wear long johns, that delightful breeze that blows down your butt from bending over.

And if the weather is cold enough, the frozen cow shit in the tail hitting you in the face.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Chase
03-21-2009, 06:26 PM
You're quite welcome.

I still have a 10-ounce green cube can of Vermont's original Bag Balm on hand. If ever there was a miracle salve for hands, feet, elbows, or any cracked skin, Bag Balm is it.

As for dirty tails, after milk cows filed into their stalls and were munching contentedly, one of my jobs was to trim tails and wash extremities, especially udders, before milking began.

Anyone who's milked remembers this ritual: Twice daily, barn cats were paid with a pan of fresh warm milk for mousing services. However, some couldn't wait and lined up for direct squirts of milk into open mouths.

veinglory
03-21-2009, 06:52 PM
Actually a lot of homestead would not have milked during the winter, because they would not have been able to feed a lactating cow over the winter and she would have died. Foods, including milk, used to be seasonal.

Puma
03-21-2009, 06:58 PM
Ever think about why butchering was a fall ritual? Puma

Ms Hollands
03-21-2009, 08:21 PM
Anyone who's milked remembers this ritual: Twice daily, barn cats were paid with a pan of fresh warm milk for mousing services. However, some couldn't wait and lined up for direct squirts of milk into open mouths.

Hah! One of my friends had a cat that did this. She'd push in front of the other cats and always get the milk!

If a farm has cows in winter, they need to be milked. If your book is set in current times, it might be useful to know that farms are growing in size worldwide, but still not catching the size of the US 'super farms'. Cows generally produce less milk in winter and more in the warmer months when they can graze on fresh grass and live a healthier lifestyle (if you've ever seen cows come out of a shed at the end of spending a whole winter inside, it's really lovely and very obvious they enjoy the outdoors).

At the moment, the number of cows in the US is being reduced through a series of cow culls due to dairy commodity prices being the lowest for a long time, causing excess stock which leads to longer-term deflated prices. This affects the farmers because dairy companies won't offer a price high enough to cover the cost of producing the milk, so their only option is to reduce cow numbers to stabilise the market and hopefully watch the prices rise as demand returns.

Guess which industry I work in :O)

Soccer Mom
03-22-2009, 03:05 AM
It depends on things like when and where your story is set. Here in Texas, winter grasses abound and people have traditionally milked through the winter. My mother moved here from Maine and wondered where all the barns were. Where did the cows go at night? My dad looked at her in surprise. Why would anyone put up the cows at night?

Region matters.


And Bag Balm is da bomb.

JrFFKacy
03-22-2009, 06:59 AM
My dad is a dairy farmer in Ontario Canada. I was officially farming with him until my chauvinist Grandfather got tired of me being in the barn and trying to suggest anything he hadn't thought of (should mention that he's physically unable to do most barn chores due to his age and health, so if it wasn't for my dad, he wouldn't be farming now at all).

We milk Holstein cows, the big, black and white spotted kind.

Dairy farmers try to get their cows to milk for 305 days a year. An individual cow can't be milked year round, because she needs to be 'dry' before she has another calf.

A cow's pregnancy lasts for nine months.

When a heifer (female) calf is born, she is fed milk for 3-6 months, depending on the farm. People used to think that more milk was better, but now we tend to agree that 3 months is long enough. The calf is also fed grain and hay as soon as she will eat it.

If she is of a sufficient size (this depends on the breed of cow) at the age of 15 months, she'll be bred. If not, she'll wait until she is big enough. Farmers usually like their heifers to calve when they're about 24 months of age.

After calving, she will ideally milk for 305 days (give or take), then she will be 'dried off' because she will be pregnant again, and will be given about eight weeks off.

After the eight weeks, she'll calve again and be back in business.

Henceforth, one cow won't milk all year, but depending on when she calved, she might milk in the winter.

Since people expect milk on the table year round, farmers have to milk cows year round. Because they have multiple cows (we for instance have 41 milking cows and are a very small farm), this is easy to do because the cows calve at different times so the majority of the herd is always milking.

Oh, and a cow's length of milking is called a 'lactation'.

dreamsofnever
03-22-2009, 11:19 AM
Guess which industry I work in :O)

April, I would have to guess you work for something to do with technology. Google perhaps? ;)

Seriously though, thank you for the information! this helps out a lot :)

It depends on things like when and where your story is set. Here in Texas, winter grasses abound and people have traditionally milked through the winter. My mother moved here from Maine and wondered where all the barns were. Where did the cows go at night? My dad looked at her in surprise. Why would anyone put up the cows at night?

Region matters.


And Bag Balm is da bomb.

You're so right, Soccer Mom. I should have mentioned the setting of this milking in winter conundrum.

It's a small hobby farm in Germany, set in the present. I'm writing it so they have a heated (or at least insulated) barn. Does that sound plausible? (to anyone who knows)


And JrFFK, thanks so much for the in-depth information! I really appreciate it :)

jclarkdawe
03-22-2009, 05:05 PM
It's a small hobby farm in Germany, set in the present. I'm writing it so they have a heated (or at least insulated) barn. Does that sound plausible? (to anyone who knows)

In New England I've never seen an insulated or heated barn, although the milking room may be. The cows are not bothered by the cold temperatures. The consideration is that they have to eat to generate heat (as do all warm-blooded animals). The more they have to generate for heat, the less energy they can put into milk.

A herd of cows in a barn will generate a fair amount of heat and many barns do not freeze during the winter.

Make the barn too warm would be expensive and also would be bad for the animals' health. The increased temperature can lead to a rise in breathing problems. Cows are designed to live in the open, not crowded places, and just like in schools, one cow's disease will spread throughout the herd.

The humans just learn to deal with the cold.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Ms Hollands
03-22-2009, 08:05 PM
I'm in a ski resort in the French alps. The cows are kept on the ground floor of a barn, with a house built above to keep the family warm in winter (through the cows' heat). Of course, not all farms are like this, but it's a typical French shed. Not sure if it's the same in Germany, but I very much doubt they'd have it heated: the cows are the heating.

The sheds here are made of wood and normally have a few doors in with open (no glass) windows above them for some light, but the conditions inside are a bit smelly and dark. They get milked where they sleep, eat, pee and poo.

The farmer across the road was telling me that cows have preferred places in the shed and if another cow down in the pecking order tries to take the place of one higher up in the pecking order, the cow knows about it very quickly.

StephanieFox
03-22-2009, 08:52 PM
The Mall of America in Minnesota has no heating system and stays warm even in sub-zero temps because of the heat of people's bodies and the architecture that traps that heat. The idea for this was based on how cow barns are heated by cow bodies. Cows are big heat generators so the barns, while cool, are never nasty-cold.

In most of the barns I've been in, the upper level is filled with bales of hay which not only provides bedding and snacks for the cows, is a great insulator. Of course, there is no hay at the Mall of America.

dreamsofnever
03-23-2009, 09:46 AM
Thanks Jim-Clark, April, and Stephanie!

The things I learn on AW... :D

Seriously though, I love that I can ask the most random question and someone here will have an answer. That's awesome!

JrFFKacy
03-24-2009, 01:05 AM
In the winter we keep the barn closed up, unless there's a specific reason to open the door (aka, to dump a round bale into the barn with the tractor). If there's drafts, there's this great stuff called feed bags and wonderful plastic bags that come packed with shavings. These get stuffed into the cracks and/or staples over them. The milking barn stays a comfortable temperature. The heifer barn sometimes gets too hot for my liking, so I'll actually fling the door right open and led a bunch of cold air in (five to ten mins), the heifers seem to appreciate it.

With most types of animals, as long as they have food, they're quite fine in cold temperatures. The cows in the barn don't grow winter coats, but the few heifers that spend the winter outside (with access to a lean-to for shelter) grow thick wooly coats and do fine. If we have to bring one of them into the barn for whatever reason, we have to clip most of that winter hair off or they'll get sick from being too hot.