October 24, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

With milk prices at a 10-year low, Kentucky dairy farmers are looking for ways to increase their income. A University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Extension Dairy Specialist believes milking three times daily is a way to do that for some producers.

"A cow will produce about eight pounds more each day by being milked three times a day," said Bill Crist, UK dairy specialist. "This is true for any level of milk production, whether the cow is currently producing 80 pounds a day or 40 pounds."

Crist pointed out that eight more pounds per day means 2,500 more pounds per year, which could equal about $300 more income per cow, per year. But milking cows is no different from other business endeavors and with increased production associated costs will rise.

"First, dairy farmers needs to determine whether they have enough labor on hand to milk three times a day," he said. "Instead of milking every 12 hours, cows will have to be milked every eight hours."

Some families may decide to take care of the added milking themselves to reduce labor costs. But, Crist said, in most cases someone must be hired to milk the third time.

In addition to added labor, cows will require additional feed since they will eat more while milking more. Crist said that a cow usually will eat about two additional pounds of feed to produce eight extra pounds of milk each day.

Dairy farmers also will be using more electricity and they will need extra supplies such as teat dip and cleaning solutions. Parlor and milking equipment costs may rise because of the added wear and tear.

"Milking three times a day costs approximately $200 per cow each year," Crist said. "With income up $300 and costs up $200, dairy farmers can expect about $100 more per cow net income annually. Farmers who already have the labor to handle a third milking would certainly find it more profitable."

Crist also mentioned new research that suggests milking cows in early lactation four times per day. He said the research indicates milking cows four times per day for at least 21 days after calving could result in production comparable to milking cows three times a day throughout their entire lactation.

"Large farms with fresh cows in a separate group could milk their early lactation cows four times a day by milking them first, and then milking them again after the rest of the cows have been milked," he said. "All the other cows would be milked only two times per day."

Some farmers may find that milking three times a day can improve feeding and management, resulting in more than an extra eight pounds of milk a day for each cow.

Crist said yet another potential benefit of milking three times a day is improved udder health. Studies have shown either less mastitis or no change in udder health by going to three milkings a day.

"Milking three times a day is not for every Kentucky dairy farm, but it can increase income on many farms," Crist said.


BIll Crist  859-257-7543