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Lactation

In all mammals, lactation begins once an offspring has been born. Dairy cattle are the greatest milk producers. Milking begins 1 to 3 days after a calf is born. Lactation generally peaks between 8 to 10 weeks of milking. To ensure the highest productivity dry matter (feed minus the natural water in it) intake peaks between 12 to 16 weeks. Later, feed is decreased to prevent overfattening. The lactation period is generally 44 weeks.

During this milking period, the cows are milked 2 to 3 times per day, everyday, at the same time. A cow enters the milking stanchion in the milking parlor where the udder is washed with warm water. Each teat is dried individually with a paper towel. The milk is then stripped from each teat into a strip cup. It should generally take 5 minutes to milk a single cow. Once the cow is finished milking, the milker is removed and the teats are dipped in disinfectant. When this is completed, the cow is released.

After the cow completes lactation, she is allowed to go dry for a period of about 8 weeks. During this time the cow is fed roughages (grass, hay, silage) until 2 to 3 weeks prior to calving. During this final 2 to 3 weeks, concentrate feed (grain) is increased. Once the cow calves, the process begins again. The chart below shows the lactation periods of several mammals.

 

 

Lactation (Milking)

cow 275 - 285 days beef 180 - 270 days
      dairy 305 - 365 days
ewe 142 - 115 days 60 - 90 - 120 days
sow 112 - 115 days 21 - 42 days
mare 330 - 345 days 90 - 150 days
woman 270 days ? years

Take the quiz on lactation to find out how much you remember.

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