It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ~ Mark Twain
When George Gershwin composed the song It Ain’t Necessarily So, he was onto something. I’d love to have a nickel for everything I was taught or told or just accepted as fact in the course of my life. From food preservation to gardening to animal husbandry to medicine to finance, there have been a lot more ‘not-so’ things than ‘so’ things. A while back I did a post on not needing to waterbath jams and jellies; I got more than 100 comments corroborating my “not-so” position. At which point it occurred to me there are lots of other not-so things out there, and shazaam, I had an ongoing blog topic. Here’s the latest “it ain’t necessarily so” (IANS).
Cows must be milked twice a day, every day, at the same interval each time. Otherwise they will dry up or get mastitis.
Well, no. There are lots of people milking cows once a day (OAD). Production falls off a bit initially. Most well-managed dairies find that after the first few years, production with OAD milking rises again to the point that the cows are producing only about 10 percent less than with traditional twice a day milking. Milk solids and butterfat form a higher proportion of the output with OAD; milking twice a day simply means the milk has proportionately more water.
• Cows have less trouble maintaining body condition with OAD milking. Keeping a dairy cow fat enough is often an uphill struggle. Without sufficient body fat, however, she is more susceptible to health issues and less likely to conceive/carry a calf.
• Conception rates are higher. Some dairies have achieved 99 percent conception rates. If you’re using artificial insemination, that means a single visit from the AI tech rather than two or more. If you’re using live cover, the rent-a-bull doesn’t have to stay as long.
• Many OAD dairies have been able to eliminate grain and other concentrated feed stuffs entirely. Instead they feed hay or graze their cows and provide free choice minerals and salt. Their total costs to produce milk drop significantly.
• Lameness drops in commercial dairies (don’t ask me why).
• The milkmaid has more time for other projects or just to enjoy life.
We have milked as often as twice a day and as infrequently as weekends only when we have so much work to do during the week that something has to give. This only works if the cow is still nursing her calf and during the latter part of lactation – I wouldn’t want to try it when a cow first freshens. Rather than milking, we let the cow and calf run together; the calf keeps ahead of the milk supply. When we’re ready to milk again, we pen up the calf. Sometimes we separate the cow from the calf in the morning and milk at night; sometimes we separate at night and milk in the morning. I’ve never milked a really high-producing Holstein and don’t personally know how well they would adapt to OAD milking. But I do know there are people out there milking Holsteins once a day.
Take a Missouri Approach
Missouri is the “show me” state. The mental attitude of “you’ll have to prove it to me” is a good one. Use your common sense. When your experience or that of people you trust is contrary to accepted scientific wisdom or expert recommendations, odds are very high the scientific wisdom and the experts are out to lunch. Ask the old homicide lawyer’s question, “Cui bono?” Loosely translated as “Who benefits?” what it actually means is “To whose profit?” When big bucks, company survival or professional reputations are on the line, ethics quite often take a back seat. Circus entrepreneur PT Barnum is credited as the person who coined the sucker-born-every-minute rule. In fact, there’s no evidence that he did say it; however, there is some evidence that it was said about Barnum’s tactics, by a banker named David Hannum. Don’t be a sucker and remember: it ain’t necessarily so.