|Molly with baby Monty 6 months ago|
We were not prepared for Molly! We decided that she needed to be dried up, even though Monty is only 6 months old (he could have had a bit longer). We have Bella in milk, so we didin't really need to milk Molly and she was looking very thin, and Monty very fat. We didn't have much good grass for Molly, so we decided to dry her off so we could try to feed her up to better condition before she has her next calf (in maybe 4-5 months). At first we tried the same method we used with Bella, but Molly was making 10 L at each milking (daily), which didn't seem to decrease, no matter what we did for 2 weeks (I made a lot of cheese and ice cream!). This explained why she was so thin and why Monty was so fat, she is such a good cow!
Finally we realised that we were going to have to stop milking (and that's when I found out that the other method isn't recommended) and let her body stop making milk. The key here is that we also changed her diet. The problem with milking her is that we feed her grain when we milk, so it was difficult to reduce her protien intake. When we stopped milking, we stopped feeding grain too. We just gave Molly lots of hay to fill up on, and a tiny amount of grain with all her minerals (and extra garlic for antibiotic properties).
I was a little put off by the conventional advice to use an intra-teat antibiotic and an artificial teat sealant to prevent mastitis. I didn't want to do either of those things, and I had to trust that Molly's own immune system was strong enough to manage what should be a natural process (although we have engineered dairy cows to make an unnatural amount of milk). So if you're still drinking non-organic milk, those cows are routinely treated with antibiotics when they are dried off. They will be out of the "with-holding" period by the time you drink their milk, but is it really safe?
Gradually, over the next few weeks, Molly's udder began to shrink, so we knew it was working. Molly seemed happy with the hay, but lonely (she had to be separated from the others so she didn't steal their grain, being he dominant one with horns). We won't know until she has her calf if we've been succesful, but I'm hoping my big strong Molly cow is going to be ok.
Here's some useful links if you want to know more:
Any tips for drying off milking cows or goats?