Drying Off a Cow


Beulah Petunia, lumbering across the field when she sees me.

Does this cow look pregnant? Anyone have a clue?

Here’s how she looked in April:

She looked big. She’s a cow.

Here’s how she looks now:

She looks big. She’s a cow.

Back in April, a vet and his assistant said they thought she was three months pregnant. They went in there and said they felt a calf.

By the way, after that episode, which took place in the milking parlor, it was days before I didn’t have to push, pull, prod, and beg to get BP to go back into her milking parlor. Lesson to you: Don’t let a vet go there in the same place you milk the cow. The cow doesn’t like it and they won’t want to go back there, just in case you have some other fun in mind. How do they know what you’re up to? You might be planning anything! So do the pregnancy testing somewhere else!

If the vet and his assistant were right, then she’s about six months pregnant now. The vet predicted she was due sometime between mid-October and mid-November. (Cows are pregnant about nine months.) One would think that the vet knows what he’s doing….. But she looks the same to me!

What do you think?

[poll id=”17″]

Notice I didn’t give you an I don’t know choice. Somebody around here’s got to be decisive, and it’s not going to be me.

Assuming she’s pregnant, she should be dried up at least two months before she has a calf. Since I’m going out of town (again) in a couple of weeks (for Ross’s boot camp graduation), I decided it would be best to go ahead and dry her up now. It’s hard on a cow to have a substitute milker. I’ve got all kinds of milk and buttermilk, cream and butter, put away in the freezer along with 20 pounds of cheddar aging in the cheese fridge. I’m ready to be without my milk cow for 3 months. (Or as ready as I’m going to be–I’m about out of freezer space.)

When I first got BP and was getting started milking, I had trouble getting enough. It took me a week or two to really get up to speed. I heard lots of dire warnings that she would dry up if I didn’t milk her out, and I was worried about it. Ha! The faucet is ON. The problem is with turning it OFF! I’ve been trying to dry her up for a month, and in particular really ramping up the efforts in the last couple of weeks. I’ve stopped giving her any high-protein feed at all and I only give her just enough corn (about half a coffee can) to get her to stick her head in the headlock so I can shut her in. I’ve got her down to just under a half-gallon of milk a day (milking once a day).

(While I have periodic thoughts of–is she really pregnant?)

Beulah Petunia, wondering if bothering with me is really worth a mere half coffee can of corn.

I’ve heard and read all kinds of conflicting advice about drying up cows. If you want to dry up a cow, you should: 1. Milk them in ever-lengthening intervals. Or– 2. Milk them out completely the last time and give them Go-Dry (dry cow antibiotic treatment.) Or– 3. Milk them every other day. Or– 4. Just stop milking, abruptly.

Conversation with Georgia’s brother, Nelson. He used to milk 5 cows before he went to school and he’s had cows all his life.

Me: “I don’t know how to get my cow dried off.”
Nelson: “Stop milking her.”
Me: “But I’m worried she’ll get sick.”
Nelson: “Stop milking her.”
Me: “But don’t I have to–”
Nelson: “Stop milking her.”
Me: “But–”
Nelson: “Stop milking her.”

It could be that I’m making this too complicated. And maybe there’s so much conflicting advice because different methods work for different people in different circumstances. I don’t know. But since I’m already confused, I might as well get some more conflicting advice while I’m at it. If you know how to turn off BP’s faucet, I want to hear about it!

Update: I posted Beulah from behind pictures here.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on July 31, 2010  

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59 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 7-31

    BP will be fine. Just stop milking. My Jersey was giving way, way more than what you’re getting when I dried her off. If the vet said she has a calf in her, it’s in there. My cow is due the end of Aug.
    She is looking plenty fat and I can see movement on her side so I know somebody’s in there bouncing around.Watch and feel BP’s side.
    You may be able to see or feel little hooves pushing out at you.

  2. 7-31

    This is so exciting! Baby goats, baby cow, coming soon to a farm far away from me! I’ll live for your photos!!!

  3. 7-31

    Stop milking her. Seriously. Supply meets demand. You milking her creates demand. Stop milking her.
    (She looks lovely, sleek and healthy, by the way!)

  4. 7-31

    I don’t know cows – so maybe this is poor advice – but as a breast feeding human – hee – that is what I did – I just stopped nursing when the time came. It hurts like a beehoohoo for a few days [we all know] but it does stop and I didn’t get sick.

    So, perhaps, Nelson is right?

    And BP has the sweetest face. :heart:

  5. 7-31

    PS to illustrate how much I know about livestock when I read the title “Drying off a Cow” I thought to myself “Why the hell is Suzanne trying to dry the cow off? Is that a simple towel off or does she need a bath sheet?”

    And no. I am not kidding.

  6. 7-31

    Well, like SkippyMom, I too was wondering why you were drying off a cow! Sheesh!

  7. 7-31

    I am by means no expert, but I’ve heard that you should slowly taper down on how often you milk her, and not just stop abruptly for the sake of not causing her a lot of discomfort; atleast that’s what I’ve read about drying off goats. But who am I? I’ve not had a dairy goat or dairy cow – so I just go by what I’ve come across in books and on livestock forums of those that seem to be in the know. I think it’s just a preference for how you want to go about it. And she looks pregnant to me, but it’s a bit too early to look at how her udder is bagging up – that will come later on closer to her due date. Now pregnant sows, I do know – so maybe there is some similarity there – but we would wean the sows cold turkey, and they did fine. :moo:

  8. 7-31

    No matter which version you go by, ultimately, they get to Nelson’s advice so yeah, stop milking her! :cowsleep:

  9. 7-31

    Listen to Nelson!

    Stop milking, period.

    I have dried up dairy cows that were still giving 3-4 gallons a day with no problem. Remember every time you remove milk, she tries to replace it.

    BTW, my Willow just calved with a bull calf so I will be milking in two days!

  10. 7-31

    I don’t know anything about drying off a cow, or milking one either, but I sure would like to! I envy you all that fresh milk and cream to work with!

    Beulah Petunia is just such a sweet looking girl. You really are lucky to have a gentle giant girl there to milk. She’s a sweetie! If she lived here I would probably spoil her too much.

    I hope she’s pregnant. A calf would be good. If its male, will he be going into the freezer when old enough? Do you eat male milk cows? A friend offered me a male Jersey calf not long ago. She has Jerseys and just had no use for a male. She said they don’t eat male milk cows, but I think we would. I think the calf meat would be tender, probably, maybe? I said no because, well, we were already afraid of our giant rooster. I hate to think what a BULL would do to us around here…

    Maybe you’ll get a girl – another milk cow!

  11. 7-31

    I’d vote with the crowd that says you are doing it correctly, but you still will just have to stop one day. Maybe today?

  12. 7-31

    Hey, I have an idea! Stop milking her!

    OK, and I think you should compare side by side photos of BP head-on. In the current one she looks mighty wide. Maybe she’s like some women who don’t look at all pregnant from the back, but when they turn around they’re carrying a basketball! Let’s get another angle on the question!

  13. 7-31

    Skippy Mom…I thought the same thing. And I was thinking…awwww, Suzanne is sooo good to her critters that she’s looking for a special kind of towel to dry her off after her bubble bath, maybe!
    My cousin had a huge farm in Missouri and raised polled herefords..the bulls were shown at fairs and they got baths daily, dried carefully and then their hair was curled and waved!!! No kidding! So a special towel to dry BP didn’t seem far-fetched. After all, Clover wears hats and tiaras.
    I have no idea how to dry up a cow you’re milking. I don’t even know how to milk a cow.

  14. 7-31

    My experience with milking cows is nil, but when we separate / wean the calves the cows do experience a sudden stop and they don’t get sick. As for whether or not she is pregnant, we have had cows that did not show pregnancy clearly at all and then all of a sudden their sack fills up and a calf appears a few days later. And if you want to know when she is getting close – your looking at the wrong end. :moo:

  15. 7-31

    Having spent my entire young life around milk cows….JUST STOP MILKING HER!!! :) You’ve been slowing her down, so there won’t be enough milk there to give her mastitis. If you keep milking her, she’ll keep producing. Trust me, nature knows what it’s doing. Just stoppit already! *grins*

  16. 7-31

    :wave: I dont have cows, would love too, but I have a dairy goat. When I “dry off” my dairy goats, I do it gradually. I dont know if you breast fed, but I did and I can say I would want to tapper off too. I made the mistake of the quick stop. OUCH! I think its o.k to treat animals the same way we’d treat ourselves in some circumstances. I dont think I want a pregnancy test in the milking parlor. LOL! :bugeyed:

  17. 7-31

    as a human milk machine i vote don’t stop suddenly
    there is a bit more risk of mastitis i would think that way
    and it would be very uncomfortable

    i would say stretch out intervals
    like morning
    then next day noon for a couple days
    then next day night for a few days
    then every other for a week
    then every third day
    etc…you could do it nice and easy

  18. 7-31

    BP looks wonderful, her coat is so sleek and healthy. I’m thinkin’ if the vet says she’s preggers, then you can count on a wee calf in a few more months. Ps; You’ve been doing this correctly but now it’s time to stop milking her! :moo:

  19. 7-31

    You could always have the vet chack her again… at 6 months, it should be pretty conclusive. And yes, just stop milking her! But I would check first, hard to start again, if she isn’t in calf…..

  20. 7-31

    Are the vote results supposed to show up? After I voted the space just went blank.

    I believe the vet.

  21. 7-31

    A half gallon once a day is basically already dried off for a cow. You can stop milking her anytime and she will be fine. If the vet said she was bred on a preg check, then I’d expect she still is. Cows don’t show much evidence until just before they are due. Big body depth hides pregnancy well. BP is looking good. She’s put on some weight.

  22. 7-31

    She looks softer and rosier and definitely has the glow of expectancy about her. Definitely with calf! :)

  23. 7-31

    I, like many others, thought you needed a nice big fluffy, warm towel to dry off BP. I was thinking you had a big rainstorm or something. Goes to show you what I know!!! I’m glad I am in such good company.
    I voted yes.
    Vets know best…I am thinking.

  24. 7-31

    Go by the front view not the side view. She looks like she’s carrying a calf to me. Watch her sides. If she’s six months along you should start seeing some kicking and moving going in there.

    As far as drying her off, if she’s down to less than half a gallon a day go ahead and stop. I’ve dried off my goats both ways and I just feel like a kinder human being doing it over a process of a couple of weeks. I’ve breastfed before! Obviously Nelson has not LOL!

  25. 7-31

    Sorry, Suzanne, I’m in the “I don’t know nothing about birthing them calves” group!

  26. 7-31

    I, too, was surprised to see the first photo of BP and she didn’t look wet. Duh. I may live on a farm, too, but I know nuthin’ bout birthin’ cow babies. Donkey babies are another story. One year Sassafras didn’t look pregnant, then suddenly one day she looked huge and gave birth within 2 weeks. Other times she was wide as a house for MONTHS (12 month gestation).

  27. 7-31

    You don’t want advice from me because when I read “Drying Off a Cow”, I pictured you with towels drying off Beulah Petunia. And not only that, I wondered, “Why would you wash a cow?” This is why I am a teacher. :)

  28. 7-31

    I thought te same as Skippy Mom, did you give her a bath…
    Well us city girls just have more to learn! Good Luck and I would go with the advice just stop milking her.
    Anyways just think of that time for something else like writting more on your blog! Happy Weekend! :snoopy:

  29. 7-31

    I’m with Skippymom too. I was wondering what she had gotten into…okay the family way. Thanks for the giggle today.

  30. 7-31

    I would think you could just stop since you’re all the way down to just a half-gallon a day. That’s not gonna kill her. Sounds like the ones here with the most experience are saying the same thing.

    She sure looks nice and filled out in her sides. She’s so pretty. :cowsleep:

    I grew up on a dairy farm but never paid attention to any of the milking stuff. Does that qualify me? (Kind of like sleeping at a Holiday Inn? lol)

  31. 7-31

    Although I’ve never been around farm animals up to now (although chickens are sounding pretty good now despite suburbia!), I immediately thought of the milk production with the ‘drying off’. Pretty certain I read it somewhere plus grandmother’s stories about their occasional cow, and it just stuck in the gray cells! As to her being pregnant, she doesn’t LOOK pregnant, but, hey, she’s a big, beautiful Beulah! I’d trust the vet. I’d also trust the “stop milking her” from the experienced country folk.

  32. 7-31

    Look how round she looks head on in those first two pictures. I don’t know anything about cows but would put my money on her being pregnant. :cowsleep:

  33. 7-31

    Hey Suzanne, I know *nothing* about milk cows, but I have several opinions anyway! I would ease her down first, as you have done, but at this point would stop milking. Given that you will be leaving soon, it would be nice to be able to see if there are any issues that develop BEFORE you leave.

    As far as pregnancy goes…I don’t know, she is gorgeous, but I don’t think that is an indicator. Since I had to go into one of my chickens the other day to see if she was egg-bound, I think it is only fair that you should get out the gloves and check yourself!! LOL :devil: (And no, neither I nor the chicken will ever be the same again.)

  34. 7-31

    what we do on the farm(I milk cows for my job lol)is to not give them any grain at all and then for about a wekk milk them once a day and dry treat them, never had any toubles with them dring off thats my 2 cents hope you figure out what to do lol

  35. 7-31

    Don’t know if she’s pregnant or not but she sure looks sweet!

  36. 7-31

    When you are not milking anymore, you should still put her in the stall every day with a treat and stroke and pet her and touch her udder- keep her tame enough and used to it, so it will be easier to start up again.

  37. 7-31

    You need to show us a rear shot! It’s the best side of a cow anyway. If her right side is bulging then yep she’s preggers. You can also bump the calf at this stage and it ought to kick you back. My heifer is 7 months and due Oct 3. She took AI her first time. They don’t really start “to show” until the last couple months when most of the fetal development takes place. Hope it’s a girl!!! :cowsleep:

  38. 7-31


  39. 7-31

    SkippyMom, I laughed over “Is that a simple towel off or does she need a bath sheet?” Then Julie wondered, too, why Suzanne was drying off a cow. But when Carol Langille thought that you were sooo good to your critters that you were looking for a special kind of towel to dry BP off after her bubble bath—that’s when I lost it and snorted my coffee.
    I’m voting for preggers. Why? The pictures, from the front, show she has a lot of girth and it’s low…like a calf is inside. There are no front view pictures from when you first got her, but even the side view before and now show she has filled out through the belly. Before there was distinct body contour from mid belly to udder. Now it is rounded from just behind the front legs to the udder.
    She resembles a lot of the horses that I have seen that are with foal.

  40. 7-31

    Stop milking her.

  41. 7-31

    Stop milking her. Your making it to complicated.

  42. 7-31

    Do you have to wash cows??? I’m being serious. I mean washing our four dogs is a chore in itself and one day we plan to move away and have goats and possibly a cow. Just the thought of all those baths makes me tired…..

  43. 8-1

    She is a pretty cow. I am not a vet but, she does not look like she will be having a baby any time soon. I have heard that you can stick your hand….you know where…to feel the baby. I would make sure that you did this with a sterile glove. Another thing you can do, is get a friend to milk her while you are gone. Give them the milk as payment for milking the cow. Good Luck!

  44. 8-1

    I want YOUR life! How much fun is a dairy cow, donkey, chickens and goats and a lot of puppies? I would like to find out.

  45. 8-1

    I saw the title of this post in my reader and I thought “Hoo boy, that Suzanne has finally gone off the deep end, drying her cow when she gets rained on!” But I read it anyway, and I’m glad I did. Now I don’t think you’re nutty as a Payday candy bar.

  46. 8-1

    I agree w/[email protected] We always looked at the cow’s right side from the front or the rear. The right side should be bigger than the left. As for “drying off”, as a kid, I didn’t pay attention to the time frame, but we went to milking once a day for a while and then stopped.

  47. 8-1

    I know you have tons of advice already, but I’m going to throw my 2 cents in anyhow. I have goats, not cows, but my friend with a dairy cow assures me it’s the same. What we do is gradually get them to a small once a day milking (just like you have done) and then go every other day for a week, but only milk out just enough to relieve some pressure in her udder. Supposedly this helps to keep the animal comfortable and prevent mastitis. After about a week of this, we go every third day. Again just taking enough to lessen the load, so-to-speak. After about a week of that, we just quit milking.

  48. 8-1

    Okay, i’ll admit it too, I pictured you giving her a bath and needing some special way to dry her off! I was already wondering why couldn’t a cow air dry? Is there a special method that I’ve never heard of????

  49. 8-1

    I’m with the rest of them, I thought you were drying her off after a rainstorm, and I was raised on a farm! My step-son is graduating from Fort Sill in Lawton, Ok in a few weeks also, is that where your son is? It would be awsome to run into you there!

  50. 8-1

    Jerrie, no, he is at Navy boot camp, which is in Great Lakes, IL.

  51. 8-1

    I didn’t realize you could stop milking a cow. I thought they would get upset and in pain. I am no farmer that’s for sure. :sheepjump:

  52. 8-1

    Always lived on a farm – knew all about animals . . . but it just didn’t click. “Why is she drying off a cow? Did she bathe her?”. . . well, we called it “drying up”. We’re from Missouri – it must be the difference between WV and MO! And, YES, she DOES look pregnant!

  53. 8-3

    Don’t you still have an alternate day milker? She couldn’t help you while you’re gone? Yes, we had cows, but not milkers. Had pigs too, but the kid loved them, they hated the husband after he ringed their noses when they dug up the pen. Yes, BP is beautiful.

  54. 8-3

    Dee, I don’t have anyone else milking her.

  55. 8-4

    Suzanne I’m curious how you use cream after it’s been frozen. I often get more than I need and would like to same some to use later.

  56. 8-4

    That’s “save some to use later”. Sheesh.

  57. 8-5

    Stop milking her. Enjoy boot camp graduation!! You will never be so proud of anyone as you are going to be of Ross. Dress comfy and bring lots of tissues and a good camera. God bless you both.

  58. 9-9

    I’m searching for info on how to get my cow to NOT dry up. It’s too soon (shen’s not pregnant and her calf is only 10 months old) but this morning she only gave 2 drops of milk. Do you know if it’s possible to get a cow to re-lactate? Do you know any good websites that might have this kind of in depth info? Thanks!

  59. 9-9

    Jennifer, I don’t know, as that was the opposite of my problem! Had she been giving milk regularly up to then? If she’s still giving some milk (even a few drops) then she still has milk and is still lactating. All I can say is what I would do, which is keep trying to milk her and try to nudge her into greater production by continuing to take all of whatever she is milking out.

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