my bovine ilk

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.
"The Cow," Ogden Nash

I picked up some of my old habits when I returned to the Farm, one of them being my Monday afternoon milking shift down in the Dairy Barn. After several weeks working alongside Farmer MacDonald I am back to milking by myself (for the most part--with an occasional helping hand with a particularly sassy cow).

So, in the spirit of cataloging all things Farm, I thought I would share some information on milking and also one days milking stats. We are currently only milking 9 of our dairy cows, and yet that produces enough milk to provide our Farm community (of about 100 people) with milk (skim and whole), cream, cheddar cheese (mmm...so good!) and cheese curd. (We also sell our cheese to the public).

Most people have that very Hollywood-city slickers-meets-Laura Ingalls Wilder mental picture of milking cows. No, dear readers, we don't sit on stools, rhythmically squeezing milk from the udders for hours on end. We use a more modern (though not state of the art) system of milking.

  • In the warmer weather the cows need to be brought in from the pasture across the street. This can be interesting if any of the old girls is feeling feisty. Usually they are ready to be milked and cross right into the pasture which leads into the Dairy Barn.
  • First thing is to feed the cows grain and nutrient supplements.
  • After putting together the milking equipment (udder wash bucket, milk collecting cans, measuring pail) the pumps are turned on.
  • Before milking each cow all the teats must be washed and dried and then each checked for infection or somatic buildup. This is done by squeezing out milk from each teat and checking it for discoloration or chunked milk.
  • After the cow is checked and all is clear, the teats are connected to the "spider": fingerlike pumps which cover each teat and pump the milk through a tube into the collecting can. (Bigger dairy farms have the milk go straight from the cow to the holding milk tank--we're not quite there yet.)
  • When each cow is finished the "spider is unhooked from that cow and the milk gathered is weighed and poured into the holding tank.
  • Since the weather is so nice now we turn the cows back out into the pasture for the night.
  • And just like in the Kitchen, the last thing we do before calling it a night is do the milking dishes.

Milking this number of cows usually takes me about an hour and a half to an hour and forty minutes...not too bad...and I like spending the time with the cows.

It's funny how smells grow on you and become, like a memory, an association of things familiar. Whenever I smell cows I think of the Farm and the longing desire to be in the country, away from traffic and congested cities and the stink that is the belching of industry. I think it is funny that people are offended by the animal smells on a farm. I am more offended by the smells of the city.

Our cows and the the pounds of milk which they produced this Monday (milk produced by each cow varies each day) ran as such:

Josephine: 19lbs (a.m.) 14 lbs (p.m.) Total: 33lbs
Bobbie 33lbs (a.m.) 14lbs (p.m.) Total: 47lbs
Sasha: 26 lbs (a.m.) 22lbs (p.m.) Total: 48lbs
Sushi: 33lbs (a.m.) 25lbs (p.m.) Total: 58lbs
Beasley: 29lbs (a.m.) 23lbs (p.m.) Total: 52lbs
Sylvia: 30lbs (a.m.) 21lbs (p.m.) Total: 51lbs
Jasmine: 44lbs (a.m.) 38lbs (p.m.) Total: 82lbs
Emily: 30lbs (a.m.) 24lbs (p.m.) Total: 54lbs
Stella: 24lbs (a.m.) 18lbs (p.m.) Total: 42lbs

Cory, Asha and Theresa are nurse cows for the calves.

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