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How to Feed Cows at Milking Time

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In a dairy environment, farmers milk cows twice a day, sometimes three times a day. They have fancy milking parlors where each cow steps into a stall to be hooked up to a milking machine. Feeding the cows while they're milking keeps them occupied and calm during milking. If you're milking a cow at home, make sure your cow's stall has enough room for milking, or provide a feeding trough in your preferred milking area.

Why Feed During Milking

Keeping cows happy increases their milk yield. Stressed cows might not stand still to be milked, or they might not let down enough milk for decent milking. Feeding them while they're being milked distracts cows from the milking process and helps relax them. According to MilkProduction.com, a website in support of the dairy industry, giving your cow food while you're milking her can increase the milk flow, which reduces the amount of time it takes to milk her and can give you more milk.

How Much to Feed

Each cow has different food requirements based on age, weight and number of weeks in lactation. In general, cows eat about 100 pounds of food per day. Much of this comes from grazing, but about a third should come from milking times. For example, if you milk a cow twice a day, give her about 15 pounds of pelleted grain each time, for a total of about 30 pounds per day in the milking parlor.


To give your cow the best possible experience during milking, have her feeding trough full when she walks into the milking parlor or stall, or give her food right away. When she starts eating, hook up the milking machine or place your stool and bucket to start hand-milking her. By the time you're finished with your setup, milking and removal of the milking machine or bucket and stool, your cow should be finished eating.

How Long It Takes

Milking isn't a time-consuming process -- unless you have hundreds of dairy cows that need milking twice a day, of course. Milking typically involves cleaning the udder and teats, milking, then cleaning the teats again to help prevent mastitis infections. When you're hand-milking, it takes a couple of minutes to get set up and clean the teats, about 10 to 15 minutes to milk the cow and another minute or two to clean her up again and remove your equipment. Machine-milking is faster; the entire process of cleansing, hooking up the cow, milking and disconnecting the machine typically takes 10 minutes or so. The actual time of milking a single cow is usually less than five minutes. Milking and milking-setup time frames fit in well with feeding durations -- it takes a cow about 12 minutes to eat 15 pounds of pelleted feed.