Research published in the September 2011 Journal of Dairy Science shows that increasing milking frequency during early lactation has a lasting effect well into lactation.

Dairy scientists at Cornell University tracked 398 cows on four commercial dairies in the study. The control group of cows were milked twice daily throughout their entire lactation. The rest were milked 4-times daily starting on day one to seven of their lactation, depending on the farm, through day 21 of their lactation, and then twice daily thereafter.

The study found that cows milked more frequently during early lactation increased milk production about 4.85 pounds per day during the first seven months of their lactation, with no significant differences between first-calf animals and those that were second-lactation and higher. Furthermore, although milk fat and protein percentages were decreased in early lactation for the high milking frequency group, overall protein yield was increased by milking frequency.

But, not surprisingly, the overall response of increased milking frequency depends on farm management.

Researchers concluded that although the direction of response was the same on all farms, the magnitude of the response was different among farms and appears influenced by management practices specific to each farm, including housing system, stocking density, nutrition, genetics and other factors.