November 28, 2015

What I have Learned from Learning to Milk a Cow

 It's been roughly seven months since Aleph was born, mama cow's first born and since that time I think I have finally earned my milk maid status.

 You see, growing up near my uncles farm exposed me to many an agrarian practices, but the actual milking he did...  which means that I 'knew' how to do it in theory. But knowing & doing are two different things. And life has a way of adding elements into your learning curves that you may not have been prepared for...

So as you read, please remember that I am by no means an expert in cattle nor of being a milk maid, but I am learning as I go, hands on style! Which is my favorite way to learn anyway...

What I have Learned from Learning to Milk a Cow:

  • Create a Semi Quiet Area - that is dry and clean: it's more pleasant for mama cow and for you. We don't have a technical milk station... but we do have nice places to milk. Even with life happening all around you, this special place is where she receives her alfalfa and her milking. 
  • Hobble: even after months of milking, I still hobble - in the beginning it was for training her and safety for myself. Now I think it's more about the process and being consistent. Our hobble is just a simple lead style with a loop around her leg, in place above the hoof and below the fetlock joint. The hobble is then attached to a stable spot... in our case it's a stake.
  • Give Alfalfa: mama cow now comes from a far end field at the sound of the alfalfa bucket handle banging against the side of the bucket. It's rare to have to go fetch her and if we do she meets us more than half way. Alfalfa and her are tight, what can I say.
  • Keep it Clean, Warm and Dry: this means keep your dairy supplies clean, your water warm and your hands/her udder dry. The clean dairy supplies are a no brainer, your dealing with raw milk and lost of wonderful living micro buddies. Warm water is for cleaning her udder and depending on the season, her udder can get quite dirty. Dry hands and dry udder, this is for multiple reasons... obviously wet hands make milking interesting in a negative way and create the perfect environment for chapped surfaces. 
  • Don't Rush and Check your Mood: if your in a hurry, having a bad day and showing it, or just plain not in a pleasant mood. Mama cow knows it and I can guarantee you that your milk production {if not the whole experience} will be down. This may sound odd, but it's true... this cow knows what your mood is and if you don't check it, she will check her udder. 
  • Be Consistent: 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. That is milking time and she knows it! Now she can be flexible, but don't be surprised if she is standing at the gate staring at you as you prepare your milking accessories.
  • Show the Love: okay - so this one is an extra. But after milking and mama cow is off the hobble and just before I unclasp her lead, I scratch her 'spot' just behind the hump of her horns. She loves this and often times she nuzzles her head along my torso like a dog.
  • NOT a Pull: it's more of a downward squeeze, a succession of your fingers tightening around the teat down ward. With the base, near the bag being closed with your first finger and thumb as you begin. Definitely NOT a pull! Her tail and hooves will let you know it too.
  • Give yourself Time: for you and mama cow to learn each other. Seriously. When I first started to milk it took me almost an hour... now I am in and out in roughly twenty minutes. Maybe thirty if I include the clean up. But do give yourself time to develop a system and to learn...
  • Milking Muscles are Going to Happen: - as you go along, your gonna earn them. My forearms are solid and only getting stronger as I go. However in full disclosure, I have had to back off my milking nights because of my hand inflammation, and I really need to figure that out so I can get back in the swing of things. 

I have also learned that milking is work, but it's so rewarding and I would not trade my learning experiences for one single thing. As I am closing this post more and more things come to mind, but I will have to save those for another day.

~ Blessings!

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