Friday, June 7, 2013

Our first milking...disaster.

The Jersey is a sweet, good natured cow, and I've been working with her daily, along with the holstein cow. 

"working with" is a little vague; I've been leading them around with a halter, having them stop and let me handle them, lift their feet and generally touch them around their udders and get comfortable with being handled. 

That's gone pretty well, and I hoped that it would make the milking easier when the time came; but today, for the Jersey, everything was new and different.  Lines in the concrete were gaping crevasses that needed to be studied and then leaped over.  Shadows were threats; a towel left on the concrete was to be avoided at all costs.  She was very spooky. 

I brought her into the milking parlor, which has a sunken well down the center, and put her in first position, but she hated, absolutely hated, putting her rear hooves on the grating.  I couldn't reach far enough to milk her by hand ... oh wait.  Milk her by hand.  Don't I have a milking machine? 

Turns out that an important valve for the vacuum pump is included with the vacuum pump, wrapped int the same paper as the packing material.  Apparently I didn't get a valve, or I threw it out when I cleaned up the packing material.  Either way I'm hand-milking, which I guess is good experience for me -- the way it used to be done, right? 

They're shipping me a new valve, but in the meantime I'd ordered a stainless steel pail for reasons that I'm not clear on, but turns out that it was pretty handy.
I brought in the holstein and used her to push the jersey into the right orientation for the milking parlor, and that seemed to work pretty well, and then got back to the business of milking

Cleaning the udder and then drying it with a paper towel was the easy part.  She stood patiently for that, and I stripped out some milk before putting the pail down under the udder and trying to milk in earnest. 

There used to be people who made their primary living by hand-milking cows.  I have a lot of respect for those people, and I think I'd be afraid to shake their hand.  As it was, this is the most tired my hands have been.  Squirt, squirt, squirt...  I work two quarters at a time, and slowly cover the bottom of the pail and then she kicks it over. 

I manage to save about 2/3rds of the milk, and wait a bit to see what that was about; seems like the holstein had been pushing on the jersey; maybe the holstein was impatient,  So I went and got some alfalfa and put it in front of both of the cows and they were distracted enough they stopped their squabble.  Washing my hands again I try again, and again, and again.  She kicked the bucket one more time, but I'd been aware enough to snatch it out of the way of her hoof. 

The calf has been nursing off her today, and i'm not sure how much its taken, but I managed to milk about a gallon over the course of about 90 minutes and I'm off duty for 12 hours.  I hope. 

Both of the cows got a treat, and I led them over to their stalls for the night and filled the manger with more alfalfa.

The more-experienced dairy farmers I've talked to say that a freshened heifer can be a circus, and I have a feel for what they mean by that. 


Funder said...

That's a rousing success, compared to some of the first-time-milking stories I've read. Grats on getting a gallon, period!

off grid mama said...

LOL too funny! I actually still make my primary living handmilking. Last year we milked eight. We're only at four right now. But i do recall a similar experience when we first started.

Some tips, if interested :
-don't bother pulling the bucket unless she's swinging around. Block the leg with your left arm. Think karate kid! Wax on wax off! Else tie her legs together or invest in a kick bar. She can and will kick the machine claw off if she gets a mind to. Break that habit now. If she fights tie her legs back as well. A new to milking cow or heifer can be a real rodeo.
-when sitting to milk you need to be close and comfortable your left leg.can go a long way at keeping her from kicking.
- I'm not certain papertowels have enough scrubbing power to get crusty manure off teets. Get a horse bristle brush. Goes a long way to cleaning up a cow.
-all in all be prepared to wrestle with her a few days maybe longer depends on how stubborn she is.

Hope this helps. Good luck Danielson...

Joanne said...

That's why I stick with goats. I can pin a goat and milk her anyway if need be. ;-)

And I'll second what Off Grid Mama said. Keep at it, you'll get the hang of it soon enough. So will your first freshener.