Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE95-112.
Gregg and Gloria Varney keep a mixed herd of conventional and organic cows on their dairy farm. They applied for a SARE grant to try the practice, common in New Zealand, of milking only once a day. It is well known that once-a-day milking is less productive than the twice-a-day milking typically done in the United States, but the Varneys thought that the resultant savings in labor might make the practice worthwhile.
They raised ten organic cows for a year, grazing them, and feeding them haylage and silage in the summer, and haylage, silage, and hay in winter. They kept records of milk production and of the amount of labor used. They found that after about a year the bacterial count in the milk had risen almost to the point where it would not pass inspection, whereupon they discontinued the experiment. During that year, however they realized substantial savings in labor which, they believe, more than made up for any lessened production of milk. They suggest that this is a feasible option for non-organic dairy cows, since the udder infections that result from less frequent milking may be combatted with antibiotics. The Varneys believe this is also an option for organic cows, though they stress that the animals must be kept very clean, and the once-a-day milking should be discontinued after six months to a year.