Monday, May 3, 2010

In Which We Learn to Milk a Cow

LaFonda, our family milk cow, arrived yesterday afternoon.

We had  penned her in a grassy yard next to the loafing shed and the other cows were very curious about her.  Reuben climbed way up atop the compost bin to get a better view.

We were advised not to expect much milk last night, because she would be stressed from the journey in the trailer. This morning she was very ready to be milked --bellering for us at 6 a.m.

We were ready, carrying out the shiny new stainless steel bucket for the  two gallons of milk we expected to get. A lot of people might have  taken a lesson in cow- milking  before their cow arrived, but not us. That's what books are for...
We tied LaFonda to a post and washed her udder with very warm water to  stimulate the let-down reflex.  We gave her a bucket of corn to entertain her while she was milked.  She gobbled it enthusiastically.
I thought i would be nervous with my head tucked up to a LaFonda's's hip and right next to her  back leg which could  really kick if she were so inclined, but within moments I felt pretty comfortable being that up close and personal with a cow. LaFonda is a very calm, patient cow, a blessing for such novice milkmaids.
In order to  speed up the process, Cadence and I each took a side. I won't embarrass ourselves by telling you how long it took us, but it was  many times longer than  the 15 minutes it took  Faye, the previous owner to do it  alone.  We must have been  annoying our good-natured cow--twice she kicked over the bucket and  then she stepped into it, so we did not even get any usable milk out of the effort. We did learn a lot, though--especially how to feel when she was going to kick  in time to move the bucket out of the way.

At one point we walked over to our  dairy farm neighbors for  reassurance and advice. They were  in the midst of milking(with  milking equipment) and paused to demonstrate hand-milking technique on their giant Holsteins (which almost seem like a different species of animal from our little cows).  They are so kind and generous sharing their farming expertise, but we suspect we provide them with a great deal of entertainment,  observing our  greenhorn farming attempts.

Because the bucket spilled we don't really know how much milk we got, but we have convinced ourselves it was about two  gallons and we were very proud of ourselves. Afterward,we gave LaFonda a cow cookie and Cadence brushed her. LaFonda is shedding and she loved being brushed. 

Thus ended our first attempt at milking. Milking is a twice a day commitment, so we got to try it again tonight. .. and  faced a whole new set of challenges.  We still haven't ended up with any usable milk  (for people, that is --the dogs are happy.)  We will have another opportunity tomorrow morning...we'll get the  hang of this yet.


Becky said...

LaFonda is so cute! Whew, hand milking a cow sounds exhausting. I'm sure you guys will get the hang of it soon enough. I think I'd cry if I had worked that hard to get a bucket full and she kicked it over. :)

katiegirl said...

Great job! It takes a while to build up a rhythm and get your hand muscles used to working like that! She looks like such a nice little's great when you don't have to fight an impatient animal!

Anonymous said...

She's a beauty, and I'm sure before long you'll be walking back to the house, full bucket in hand. :) I love reading about your adventures!

Ribbit said...

She's such a doll. Amazing, it is, how good mannered she seems to be.