Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Dairymaid Diaries: Enter Milking Machine

Today marks day #2 with Mattie the Jersey cow and things could not possibly be more different from my second day with Hazel the Jersey/Holstein. In short, I am in love with this cow.

If there ever was a cow meant for this beginner, it's Mattie. She has been 100% pleasure so far and I really enjoy her! Saturday morning dawned clear and cool, and in its wake it found me preparing myself to use a milking machine for the very first time. I was overly tired on Friday night and ended up not sleeping well due to nightmares about malfunctioning milk machines that suddenly came alive like octopus tentacles. So Saturday morning I was still suffering the effects of waiting for this metal contraption to suddenly grab either me or the cow in a fit of rebellion. Taking a deep breath, I led my bellowing bovine (my goodness she has a loud voice!) into my milking parlor - such as it is - tied her to a fence post which was my momentary pathetic excuse for a stanchion, and turned my new machine on...

It surprised me just how quiet the machine was. I mean, it's certainly not a whisper, but it's not annoyingly loud like I was afraid it would be. Just a nice, moderate hum. Now to be totally honest, that first milking didn't go overly well, but it was all on my part. Mattie never moved a muscle, never offered a kick, never even looked at me! The problem was just silly me, trying to figure out when she was milked out all the way, and learning how to properly put the inflations on her teats, and how to take them off. If you want a good way to wake up in the morning, I highly recommend getting a milking machine for a dairy animal of your choice! This thing keeps me hopping and alert! After assuming that I was done, I began stripping her out and ended up with, um, another quart.... Whoops. I guess the machine wasn't done.

One thing in particular that I absolutely LOVE about Mattie is how beautifully she leads. The slightest tug on the lead rope will get her following you like a faithful hound. In comparison, in order to get Hazel to move you first had to point her head in the general direction you wanted her to go, and then stand right behind her and apply pressure with your boot right beneath her dewclaws and force her to move one foot at a time. It took me 20 to 25 minutes to get Hazel to go twelve feet to the milking parlor. Mattie gently leads the way. 

Once Mattie was contentedly munching the morning's hay, I hauled my bucket inside. Oh and for those who are wondering, I have a little Surge Bucket milker which I believe originally came from Hamby's. On taller cows, you would hang this via a strap from the cow's back so that it hangs just off the ground and out of the line of fire from hooves. Since Mattie is so charmingly short (I love that, too!), the bucket simply sits on the ground. So yes, there I was literally hauling this metal bucket full of fresh milk. That thing is so heavy that it's not even funny. I have no idea how much it weighs when it's empty, but when it's full of milk and  you can't seem to get a proper grip on the darn thing, it suddenly seems really heavy.

With the goat's milk, I have always just slowly poured the milk out of the pail and into a jar that had a filter waiting on the mouth. I had seen those spandy metal strainers in dairy catalogs, but oy! They were $40.00 each! So after all these years of milking, I've never bought one.

After that first morning though, I decided that I needed a strainer before the next week was out. While pouring the bucket milker, you have two speeds: no movement at all, or a flood great enough to wash the jar away. Neither one is really great for a jar with no strainer. So after much grunting and bear-hugging that giant pot, I ended up with a gallon and a half to call my own, and watched 3/4's of a gallons go down the drain as I spilled and sloshed it clumsily. One milk strainer, coming up!

Since Mattie is used to being milked only once a day, I decided to stick to that routine on both Friday and Saturday. She needed to settle in a bit, and I wanted to get used to her before doing this dance of metal and milk twice a day. I think I will milk her tonight though, and start seeing about raising her production to a higher level.

This morning's milking was *awesome*. Mattie behaved perfectly, and I managed to milk her completely out; stripping out only a measly 1/4 cup when I was finished. Now, was the entire milking flawless? Oh dear me, no... It wasn't. I'm still learning how to use this machine, and more than once I had to put an inflation back on because it had come detached. But other than those small mishaps on my part, it really was quite nice. The machine milks her out in roughly five minutes, and I get about 2.5 gallons. With Hazel, it took me 60 to 90 minutes to hand milk her out and I usually only ended up with one gallon. The rest was on the parlor floor. I don't find washing the machine to be any more trouble than washing my pail, or bottle feeding my goat kids. I actually enjoy washing my milking equipment, and I find it a very relaxing part of my day.

Mattie is settling in quickly, here at GSF... She treats Peaches like a pesky fly that won't leave her alone, but that little heifer just loves her even if she does get brushed off throughout the day. The goats don't mind her, but are careful to give her a wide berth, nevertheless. And as for me and her, we're still learning the dance steps to this jig. She's learning that I'm the boss cow here, and I don't tolerate rough housing. I give myself a five foot bubble of space around me, and if she comes in the bubble then she gets pushed away. She is known for her head bunting, and after one swing that got me in the hip, I quickly laid down the rule that she may not approach me. I will go to her for haltering or general handling, but that's all. I think this rule is going well so far, and it's only taken a few pushes for Mattie to realize that this dairymaid needs her space.

Having a cow has definitely added another dimension to the farm, and I don't remember a time when I've been so tired (except for at Polyface perhaps...). But it's a good kind of tired. I look forward to seeing how this story continues to unfold...

8 comments:

nancy said...

New things can be scary, but it sounds like you're on the right track!

domesteading said...

What are you planning on doing with the milk? There's no way I could find uses for 2+ gallons of milk a day!

Goat Song said...

Domesteading, all the milk is going to herdshare owners! Although, today I'm making butter with 1.5 gallons of it... And I'm thinking maybe I should make some ice cream!

Anonymous said...

Sounds great! Thanks for sharing, glad things are going well.
Heather in Pa

Stacey said...

It's so exciting for me to read along as you and Mattie figure this out. I would like to have 2 girls one day for cowshares and it's great to read about the journey that you all are on from the beginning. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh, two and a half gallons a day...If I had to drown I think I'd do it in raw milk.
Tasha

Head Farm Steward said...

That's funny. We just located a used surge milker of our own. Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

[url=http://dcxvssh.com]oejpu[/url] - HJYtsTFxsuFSTlBz - http://hhmgziigpu.com