Friday, January 21, 2011

Milking A Cow........Outside

Good Morning!  I really love Patrice Lewis' blog, Rural Revolution.  She has an interesting way of putting things that can make you laugh and really understand where she's coming from.  Her stories of life on a rural farm in Idaho make for good reading.  One of my favorite posts was one she did on the incredibly popular facebook game Farmville.  While I am on facebook (fb) I do not play any of the games.  I don't have that kind of free time and when I do I'm usually crocheting or knitting or making soap or reading.  My children have tried several of the games (You really don't know the feeling that comes from your 16 year old daughter yelling out "He just robbed my chop shop!  I've got to put this guy on ice!" unless you've actually been there) so I'm vaguely familiar with some of them.  Farmville is evidently one in which, as Patrice put it repeatedly, "you can milk 20 cows with just one click".  For someone who has one cow, this is downright infuriating! No, not the "20 cows with just one click"!  My irritation comes more from the fact that these people NEVER HAVE TO GO OUTSIDE.  No wonder that the American public has so little regard for the farmers.  Either I or Kelsey have milked in 7 degree (with a 10 degree wind chill) temperatures, in rain so hard you couldn't see the woods on the other side of the field, in snow, in sleet, in mud, in 100 degree weather.......  So far we've avoided a hurricane, but I'm sure we'll get there sometime.  We've milked sick, hurt, or just plain grouchy.  We do wait out thunderstorms since our milking area is under several trees, but, other than that, we're right there, twice a day.

So, in the interest of dispelling nauseating myths about farming and taking care of animals, I decided to show everyone exactly what is involved in milking one cow........supposedly you can multiply this by 20 for a true "Farmville" experience.

This is Maggie, our Jersey cow.  The first thing that you have to understand about dairy cows is that their genetics cause them to put everything they eat into making milk.  THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE THIS.  A nicely filled out dairy cow is fat and unhealthy and will probably die the first time she tries to carry a calf.  The hay Maggie is eating is available 24/7.  Notice that she is OUTSIDE.  This means that I have to go OUTSIDE to the pasture and bring her to the milking stand, which is also OUTSIDE.

In addition to the hay, Maggie is given grain twice a day during milking.  About 2 scoops (or 4 lbs) of grain concentrate, twice per day.  We only use Purina brand feeds for our animals because it is the only brand available locally with only plant proteins, none from animals.

Because it has been very cold, I have been adding a sprinkling of beet pulp to her food.  This is a carbohydrate and will help give her the extra energy to stay warm.  Since she is pregnant, I have to be careful not to overdo it.  As noted above, a plump dairy cow is an unhealthy dairy cow.

It should also be noted that the feed is kept OUTSIDE, which is where I have to be to get it.

There are several things homesteaders can't have enough of.  Such as tarps......and five gallon buckets.....and hurricane straps......  Here is our current milking setup.  The headgate is on loan to us from the farmer who used to sell us our beef heifers we showed for 4H.  This same farmer used to haul those heifers all over NC and spend every Saturday from the end of August to the end of October away from his farm and at the shows.  We couldn't have done it without him.

After fixing the food, I dump it into the food pan at the end of the headgate.

In addition to the milking pail, strip cup, and rag, I get out the Fight Bac and the udder wash.

See the nice stool my husband set up for me.  It is definitely much softer and warmer than the upside-down 5-gallon bucket I was using.  Come hunting season, however, I just know I'll be looking for that bucket again.

Here is Maggie, chowing down on the feed and ready for milking.  I know the bars at her neck LOOK like I'm squeezing her throat, but I'M NOT.  I always make sure that the metal is not touching her and that I can put my hand between the bar and her.  Besides, have you ever tried to milk a cow that was choking and couldn't breathe?  Me either, but I know enough not to want to try.

This is Maggie's udder with four teats.  During the summer we generally shave the hair off her udder, but in the winter we let it grow back.  Today her udder is fairly clean, but there are days..........

We spray the udder with udder wash, which is a mixture of iodine and water, then wipe it really good with a clean rag.  Every week we wash the rags in hot water using bleach and an extra rinse cycle.  Then they are hung out to dry.

Several squirts from each teat are then milked into the "strip cup".

This is then closely inspected for any abnormalities such as flakes, globs, or blood, which could be signs of unhealthiness or infection.  We also do a mastitis test once a week. 

Then the milking begins.  I usually milk one front teat and the diagonally opposite back teat at the same time.  Here I'm trying to take a picture so I'm only milking from the back teat.  Notice, once again, that all of this is taking place OUTSIDE.

A pail of milk.....mmmmm.  It was a good day.  Maggie didn't pee or poop while I was milking, nor did she step in it.  You have no idea how depressing it is to finish milking a cow when you know that you are going to have to feed the milk to the livestock because it became contaminated.

Then we spray Fight Bac on each teat.  It's a cold antibacterial spray that kills any bacteria that may have gotten on the teats and helps to close up the orifice that the milk comes out of.
Then Maggie is released where she immediately returns to the hay ring.

The milk is weighed, which helps us keep up with production.  While I don't personally care how much Maggie gives, a drop in production is usually the first sign of illness.  So being able to quickly notice this gives us a head start on solving any problems.

Then the milk is taken back inside to be strained into glass jars.......

 and put into a cooler with several frozen freezer packs to chill.


Dawn Petty said...

This is amazing information- Thank you! We recently got our first jersey, her name is Penelope. She had her own calf, plus shes nursing another. Cant wait to read you other posts... when you have time (sarcasm :-)

Sunnyside Dru said...

What a beautiful morning! Thanks!