Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hand Milking

As Bridget Da'Cow and I get to know each other, part of our journey is learning the hand-milking process. We've been very much enjoying our first tastes of fresh, raw milk. Wife is making paleo chocolate sauce to go with it. The chocolate milk is outstanding.

So, with that, I though I'd share how I milk her.

Hand milking my Jersey cow in my backyard.
Bridget, with fresh hay, ready to be milked.
I set in a T-post near the shed, behind the sheep winter pen. I use Colt's leash to hook to Bridget's halter (I guess it's now the cow's leash (and that's #834 of the things I never thought I'd say when I was younger)) to the T-post. She has a pile of hay to munch, and I have a ladybug stool and a stainless steel milk pail.

UPDATE 3/20/14: Since this article, I've built a stanchion for hand milking on the other side of the shed, and have fully weaning Brisket.

Once I coax her over there (she's not the most willing follower quite yet), it's time to milk.

I start by brushing her down with a big, green, soft brush. I then take some warm soapy water and clean off her udders. These steps help prevent debris, like grass and other schmootz, from getting in the milk. I give the udders a few soft slaps to simulate the impatient head jabs of a hungry calf. These all help stimulate letdown.

Once she's started to let down and is pretty calm, I pull up the stool and get to it.

Hand milking into a steel pail.
This pail holds 2.5 gallons. I haven't yet cracked a gallon....
Bridget is a kicker. The first day, I milked OK, but she kicked it ALL over. She's kicking less now, but I've learned to hold the bucket between my feet to keep it from falling over.

The steep pail (I have 2) was from Hamby Dairy. I highly recommend them - great product, great service, fast shipping.

It's taken some time to get used to the milking process, as I have literally had to learn it anew this weekend. I'd never milked anything before Bridget. But, every day is an improvement. I am learning SO much as I go. For example, her front two teats are perfect. Easy to hold, easy to milk, good flow, etc. The back two, not so much. Her back left quarter has a very short teat. You can't see it in the shot above. I can only use two fingers, and the flow is not so great. That's the one that had the edema on it, so I an loath to just dig in quite yet. The back right, which you can see at the very top of the picture, is a bit better, and at least I can use three fingers on it.

Milking is taking between 25 and 40 minutes, partially dependent on how long it takes to get her stationed and ready. the actual milking time is closer to 20-30 right now. I expect this to drop, especially after weaning.

Speaking of which, Brisket is currently still cleaning up for me.

Brisket Le'Cow taking all that cream that Bridget is holding back.....sad.....
We haven't started weaning yet. We'll get to it in the next week or two, but for now, we're letting him finish, and keeping them together most of the day. I've been separating atnight to milk first thing in the morning, and Bridget knows she's going to get her baby back after. I think she's not letting down all the way. Today, she stopped and started a few times. i can tell she's holding back on me.

Soon enough, the milk will be all mine and Brisket will be off completely. For now, though, while we learn to hand milk, Brisket is helping me clear her out to prevent mastitis from forming because of her edema. And that is an important task right now.

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