Over the last several weeks, Sandy and I have both been loving the pure early sunlight streaming into the milking parlor each morning.
But with Daylight Savings and the sudden and unceremonious thrust of morning milking back into the dark, we’re feeling the absence of those lovely rays of hope and spring.
Each morning as I’ve come to the barn for milking since the time change last weekend, I’ve found Sandy still laying snug and warm in the straw, barn cats curled up next to her warm side, no one quite ready for the day to begin.
“I hear you, love. It’s a rough week for all of us.”
Milk cows thrive on routine.
It’s no secret that a milk cow can get downright cranky if you’re even 15 minutes late to milking.
She’s engorged and uncomfortable, looking for a treat and impatient with your tardiness.
She may express her annoyance with a particularly well-timed slap with her tail, she may be particularly shifty and restless, or she just may poop right in the parlor, leaving you to frantically scramble to rescue the milk pail out from under her.
So how do you deal with the sudden, unforeseen, and rude adjustment in her milking routine that is Daylight Savings time?
Adjusting The Milking Schedule
The seasonal time change is often a difficult week for all of us. But remember, you’re the farmer. You get to take into account your cow, her temperament, and her needs and then make decisions about what will work best for your cow and your schedule.
And if the decisions you make turn out to not work out great, you’ll get another go in six months.
Here are a few ways to approach the adjustment to a seasonal time change.
- Introduce a gradual adjustment
I’m almost certain you know first-hand (or can imagine in vivid detail) what it’s like to try to soothe a cranky toddler whose nap time routine has been bungled by the onset of Daylight Savings. It’s not a pretty sight.
If I were the type of parent to think and plan ahead, I may have tried to prepare said toddler by putting him down for a nap 15 minutes earlier each day for a week or so in advance, thus gradually adjusting his body clock to the new time change.
I never did this as a parent. Didn’t have the foresight or patience to make it happen.
But as a milk cow owner? You betcha.
So one way to ease the transition into Daylight Savings time is to milk 15 minutes earlier than your regularly scheduled milking time.
Do this over four days, milking 15 minutes earlier each day so that on day 4, you’ll be milking at the new earlier milking time.
Vice versa for the end of Daylight Savings. Just milk 15 minutes later than your regular time and four days later, you’ll be right “on time.”
Then just monitor how your cow reacts. If you find that she’s still super cranky, perhaps at the next time change you can adjust milking time by 15 minutes for two days to give her a little longer to adjust, then another 15 minutes the next two days and so forth so that after 8 days, you’re “on time” with the seasonal time change.
If you’re into less planning and foresight, less thinking and adjusting, then this next option may be for you:
- Go cold turkey
This is, admittedly, my preferred method. It’s abrupt to be sure, but the time change is difficult for everyone and it always feels better to just get it over and done with.
Also, I’m not great at planning ahead. #fulldisclosure
Milk cows are experts at adapting. They adapt to changes in schedule, changes in demand, changes in feed, changes in weather. Of course, some changes MUST be introduced gradually (like introducing a new feed), but when it comes to the milking schedule, I feel that a change of an hour once in spring and again in fall is best accomplished all at once.
Just rip the bandaid off and move forward.
So on the morning of Daylight Savings when I’m feeling groggy and sleep deprived (more so than usual that is), I get Sandy up early and we milk an hour early. And again an hour early in the evening, fully adjusted now to the new time.
She may very well be a little cranky. And that’s to be expected. You probably are too. So give her a little grace – and yourself too. Brew an extra strong cup of coffee and love on her a few extra minutes for those first few mornings.
Moderation is a Virtue
Instead of going cold turkey, or taking a week or more to nurse your cow into the time change, you can absolutely follow a little more moderate route as you make the adjustment and combine elements of both these approaches.
- Adjust over 2-3 milkings
If you normally milk at 7am, on the morning of Daylight Savings, milk at 7:30/7:40am (that would be 6:30/6:40am on the previous time, about half an hour early for your cow).
Then in the evening, milk at 7:15/7:20 (that would be 6:15/6:20pm on the previous time, 40-45 minutes earlier than her normally scheduled milking time).
And the next morning (the day after the time change), milk at 7am.
With this option, you’ve moderated the change over 2-3 milkings so she’s had a chance to adjust, but it hasn’t been too much trouble or needed too much advanced planning on your part.
Win win eh?
Daylight Savings is a rough transition for all of us, but with a plan in place, you can weather the rough patch and know just how best to serve your cow so she can happily keep doing what she does best: liquid sunshine to feed the whole farm.
KEEP LEARNING IN MILK COW 101
Keeping a milk cow is beautiful, but can be intimidating and overwhelming. Even simple things like the seasonal time change can throw you for a loop and make you feel off kilter. I’ve been there; I know exactly what that feels like!
So if you’re dreaming of keeping a family cow and have a zillion questions, join the waitlist for Milk Cow 101. You’ll be the first to know when enrollment opens and you’ll be ready to learn everything you need to feel confident and prepared to care for, feed, milk, and love your very own family milk cow.