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.