Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 02-23-2004, 09:57 AM
thwartme thwartme is offline
Join Date: May 2003
Location: The T Dot.
Posts: 806
What happens when a cow doesn't get milked?


Forgive an ignorant city boy, but someone asked me this the other day, and I realized that I didn't know the answer.

Your modern dairy cow, I am given to understand, is a milk-producing machine. It's fed hormones and drugs and a special diet all designed to make it produce the most milk possible for the longest period of time.

So what if nobody milks it? I guess if things had been left to nature, it would simply stop producing milk, but what about the modern milk-slave? Does it cause discomfort to the animal? Does the milk leak out on it's own? Does it - dare I suggest it - explode?

Okay, it probably doesn't explode...

Old 02-23-2004, 10:18 AM
Hello Again Hello Again is offline
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: I am Queens Boulevard
Posts: 14,142
If the cow is not milked on time, the milk builds up in the udder causing painful pressure. Eventually, this would lead to an infection of the udder, called mastitis, which can kill the cow.

There is no such thing as a non-domesticated cow (it's wild predecessor, the aurochs, has been extinct for some time) however in range-living cows, the cow would gradually produce less and less milk -- tapering off -- as the calf got older, until the calf was weaned, at which point te milk would dry up.

--Native Brooklynite who read a lot of James Herriot
Old 02-23-2004, 10:23 AM
Stellablue Stellablue is offline
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Coastal Carolina USA
Posts: 198
Dairy cows get used to the milking schedule. I used to see them waiting near the barn door for the afternoon milking at my cousin's farm. If delayed they make a lot of noise. They MOO because they are uncomfortable girls.
Old 02-23-2004, 11:09 AM
noodler noodler is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Gorham Me
Posts: 29
As Hello Again mentioned, they will develop mastitis. Of course, the extent of this depends on the individual animal, the breed of cow, and perhaps most importantly, the time when milking is stopped.

Even within the same breed some cows produce more milk than others. So even something that is breed for milking (I.E. Holstein, Jersey, Gurnsey, etc.) might end up with just a touch of mastitis and then dry up.

Naturally, the effect of withholding milking is dependant on the amount of milk that the cow is producing to begin with. For instance, Holstein's are breed to produce a high volume of milk while Herefords are not considered dairy cows. At our farm we had a Hereford/Holstein cross that we just gave up on milking with no ill effects.

Like all female mammals, cows don't lactate year-round anyway, they dry off after a while and don't resume milk production until they give birth again. So a cow that was about to stop giving milk anway probably wouldn't get mastitis too badly. Of course, farmers dry treat these cows before they stop milking them, so it probably wouldn't be that great of an idea to simply stop milking them.
Old 03-01-2004, 09:20 AM
thwartme thwartme is offline
Join Date: May 2003
Location: The T Dot.
Posts: 806
Thanks very much!

Sorry for the delay in thanking you, but system problems kept me off the net for a loooong time.

Thanks for the info. And Hello Again , I read those Herriot novels too, but I guess it was too long ago for me to remember.



Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:07 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017