Tuesday, August 24, 2010
To Milk or Not to Milk?
But then I also have to deal with the milk, even more-time-consuming than the milking. With one week's milk I can make 3 or 4 large wheels of cheese, a gallon of yogurt, a pound of butter, and still have plenty for us and the dogs to drink. Depending on the kind of cheese, making it is often an all-day project. Today I am making gouda, which I started at 11 a.m. and just got it into the press now, after 5 p.m. In 20 minutes I take it out of the mold, flip it over and re-wrap it, and put it back in the press with heavier weights. This gets repeated several times yet tonight.
I am also still battling the problem of aching hands from milking. My Udderly EZ milker has only partially solved the problem - it is not really up to for such constant, heavy-duty duty. After a session of helpful hand-massage work from the fellow who does $1/minute massage at the street fair, I went back to hand-milking. And I investigated purchasing a bucket milker.
After going back and forth about it for weeks, I decided to let LaFonda go dry now, rather than waiting until winter. This way, I will have significantly more time this fall to deal with harvest, paint, and focus on my part-time job. Plus, I will be able to visit my family up north for a long weekend without abandoning Rog to the milking. I'll miss the fresh milk and yogurt and occasional ice cream --but we have a refrigerator full of cheese aging that should last us all year.
Drying a cow off is a worrisome proposition -- there is a risk of mastitis, plus there is just no avoiding her being uncomfortable. My neighbors with 150 holsteins advised me to restrict food and water for a couple of days and close her in a stall. I guess I can imagine that being the most sure-fire strategy for such huge cattle that are giving up to 14 gallons of milk a day, but restricting water seems pretty harsh in this hot weather. One resource suggested tapering off, milking once a day, then every other day, then stopping. One said feed her no pasture or grain or high-quality hay (what else is there?) Another book advises to just stop milking suddenly - nature has designed a cow's body to know what to do if she loses a calf, and by intermittent milking you are confusing her system.
Today her udder was immensely full, but it wasn't feverish and she wasn't complaining. Not that I would be able to tell. When Lariat moos, it is a deep, grouchy bellow, but when LaFonda moos, it is as musical and gentle as a low note on the harmonica.