Tag Archives: milking

Bucket of Milk in My Face, Big Disgrace, Kickin My Cans All Over the Place

Have you ever had one of “those” mornings?  The ones that seem to start out ok, but early on there is an event where you think to yourself, “self, this might be a hard day”?  Today was one of those days for me.  Nothing like the beautiful title picture that makes me long for that morning last week.

Today started out great.  Got a good night’s sleep.  Felt rested when I got up to milk.  Everyone but my wife was still asleep when I left the house heading for milking chores.  Things were looking good.

My first four steps… still going in the right direction.  Now let me interject here and let you all know that we have been getting rain the last couple days, lots of rain.  And not the rain that brings May flowers.  The kind of rain that brings frozen roads, driveways, and front steps.  The front steps are where I started to have an inkling in might be one of those days.  I very nearly bit it on that top step, I caught myself, but just barely.  I honestly thought to myself, “ok, you caught yourself, you now know it’s icy, you’re good.”

So I shuffled to the barn and got my milking supplies.  On the way from the barn to the cow, even the yard was icy.  I shuffled my way down to the gate and opened the gate.  Prudence, who normally meets me AT the gate, peeked her head out the tarp wall as if to say, “I’m not coming out there.”  Nice.

Our water drains through the pasture down into a swale.  As we have been having melting, thawing, and freezing rain, the part between the gate and the animal shelter/milking parlor is more or less an ice skating rink.  I didn’t bring my skates.

After nearly biting it two or three more times, I made it to the relative safety of the milking parlor.  “Not too shabby,” I thought to myself, “balance like a cat.”

During milking Prudence was a little more fidgety than normal.  On a regular day Bullseye will vacate the milking parlor knowing that he doesn’t get any grain and I prefer he leave so as not to bother Prudence.  He wasn’t interested in going out in the rain so he stayed.

Throughout milking the rain seemed to continue to come down harder and harder.  When I was just about done, Prudence decided she was done as well, and decided to relieve herself.  Bombs away!  Right into the water which was now flowing at a steady pace through the shelter, and splashed poopy rainwater everywhere.

I was hoping that by the time I finished there would be a slight break.  Unfortunately, as I finished, the rain began to beat on the steel roof.  I hung out with the cows for a few minutes longer, and then finally, the break I was looking for.  Just as I was heading out the door, lightning and thunder, which unnerved the cows further.  After skating back to the gate with my catlike reflexes(wink wink) I thought I was home free.

It was on the way to give the pigs the milk that I was greeted with the reality that I neither have catlike reflexes nor was I home free.  I stepped on the slight slope that is between the gate and the pigs, and my foot lost grip.  As I plummeted to the ground the bucket of milk hit the earth first, right next to my head, and an explosion of milk erupted all over my face and upper torso.  It was sweet if you are wondering.

After picking myself up, injury free but knowing I need to work on those reflexes, I headed to the hydrant to rinse out the bucket.  Wet, milky, and defeated, I shuffled to the house.

While aiding my pregnant wife to her car we managed to only almost fall twice.  Fortunately she made it safely to work, the milky clothes made it to the washer, and I am now clean and conversing with you.  All before 7:30.

Now that I have had time to write down the morning’s events, I can see how they might be humorous to others.  So if you have a story like this, that you can now laugh about, share it in the comments below.  I’d love to laugh along with you.

If you are still reading this, if you haven’t already, please consider checking out my YouTube page by clicking on the previous link.  It’s a lot of the same types of things you read and see here, but you get to put a voice and face to the words.  Maybe that’s not such a good thing… well check it out anyways.  I’d really appreciate if you like what you see, if you’d consider subscribing or liking a video.

Have a wonderful rest of your day, I’m going to.  Until next time.

Huge Farming Operation

The other day we had an opportunity to visit with one of my wife’s co-workers and her husband.  They live just up the street from where my wife and I lived not long after we got married so it was fun to drive past there and show the kids.

They have a beautiful new house tucked back in the woods on 16 acres, it is idyllic.  We were able to have dinner and visit for awhile which is always great.  The kids even got to play some pool and meet their grand kids and play with them for awhile.

One of the main reasons for our visit was that they wanted to show us my wife’s coworker’s uncles farming operation.  It was just a few minutes away, and quite impressive.  I am repeating any stats from memory so forgive me if I get them wrong.

They have a large milking operation milking over 3,000 Holstein cows, which they milk pretty much 24 hours a day.  They have about 3,500 of their own acres that they farm, and then lease that many more which to my mind is an amazing undertaking.

We were able to see the milking parlor briefly, and the amount of automation that goes into that is a sight to see.  The stanchions for feeding the cows while they get milking are all automated and raise up when the cow is done milking, allowing the cow to leave the milking parlor.

In the barns where the cows spend a lot of their time, the cows each have their own waterbed for laying on to rest.  Apparently it helps in their digestion.

The kids were then able to see some of the calves in one of their calf barns.  When you have an operation as big as theirs, calves are being born just about every day, and sure enough we saw a calf that was born that morning.  It reminded me of last spring when we bought five steer calves to raise.

The last stop on the tour was the swimming/fishing pond and what I will call the party barn.  They have created an amazing spot for their family to have get togethers and visit.  They have the swimming pond, to which they added a zip line, water slide made out of plastic culvert pipe, and a couple swings that swing out over the pond.  They also have a sand beach volleyball pit and a soccer field.  The party barn was a big open, very nice barn that had bathrooms and plenty of space for the family to gather.  They have a set up that I am envious of, and someday hope to have similar.

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It was a very impressive operation, and I was honored to have it been shared with our family.  I can’t imagine trying to manage that amount of property, animals, or chores.  Honestly, it’s not something I personally would be interested in, but it is very cool to see.  I’m more of a, couple of cows, pigs, chickens, etc on as much grass and pasture as possible but we need some of each to make the world go round.

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Big Addition

We have a new addition to the Homestead.  It is a big addition.  Like 1100 pounds big.  But let me back up one second.

My brother in law has always wanted beef cows.  Recently he found a good deal on some bred Herefords, so he got two of them.  I happened to ask if the guy who was selling them had any other breeds, and sure enough he did.  He had a couple Belted Galloway crosses.  They were half Beltie half shorthorn, so a good smaller beef cow.  I have always liked the Belted Galloway, and despite their relative rarity, we have several farms around here that have them.  I was interested.

After looking at the Craigslist ad, and getting the green light from my wife, I called the gentleman to see if the cow who’s belt was solid, was still available.  She was, so I made the trip up to his place with my brother in law’s trailer.

   
   
All that to say we now have a full sized cow on the farm.  She has been here for a little over 24 hours and seems to be settling down a bit.  The gentleman we got her from called her Oreo, which is a little generic since that is the breed nickname, but that is the name with which we are going to stay.  Oreo had never seen sheep before, so she was very anxious when she arrived.  I let her stay in the trailer for a bit scoping things out, but she was still on edge when she was out.

The sheep for their part were just curious about this new, huge creature released into the pasture.  She wasn’t interested in being friends with the wooly sheep, and mock charged them several times.  That promptly ended the sheep’s curiosity.  I entered the pasture to try and calm her down and make sure she saw the hay bale.  She wasn’t interested in being friends with me either, and mock charged me.  Needless to say the rate at which my heart was beating increases significantly.

   
    
    
 Most of the night she was restless.  Her calf had been weaned a few days ago but the gentleman didn’t realize she started nursing another calf when hers was taken away.  The good news about this is that she has strong maternal instincts.  The less great news is that she is bellowing for her calf, and it had me seriously worried she would try to leave the pasture to find him.  Fortunately she is still here today.  And she seems much calmer.  Yesterday she was curious about the steer calf we have here, but I think after he saw her mock charge the sheep he wanted nothing to do with her.  Today they seem to have made friends, laying near each other and he seems at ease with her.

She has been exposed to an Angus bull, so in the spring we will hopefully have a 1/4 Beltie, 1/4 shorthorn, and 1/2 Angus calf to raise for meat.  My plan is to work with her over the winter and get her used to being handled so that I can see if she will make into a milking cow.  If not, I will start upbreeding her with beltie and continue to get a higher percentage Belted Galloway cows.  Either way, we will have a good beef breed, and at only four years old, I could feasibly get another 14 calves from her.

The adventure continues.

Moooooooooo!

Is what the cow says. On Saturday I had the opportunity to learn how to milk a cow and a goat. It was actually a class that covered all things home dairy. A nearby farm, Firesign Family Farm, offers classes on all sorts of self-sufficiency/homestead/farm type things. We talked about fencing requirements for both goats and cows. We also talked about pasture and food requirements, handling, milking stations, routine, and health care. There were twelve of us, including a friend of mine who I was able to to convince to join me, in the class and anyone who wanted was able to trim the goat’s hooves and milk bot a goat and cow.

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The cows waiting to come in for milking

Going into the class I was very interested in goat milking. With goats being smaller and more manageable, I thought, and also producing far less milk I wanted to know if that would be an option that would ever appeal to me.  One thing that should be obvious about goats, and I guess I had never really thought about, was that their udders are much smaller than a cows. Stands to reason that a smaller animal would have smaller udders, but if you don’t think about milking much, it’s not something you ruminate on. While I didn’t have any problem milking the goats, I pretty much used only my thumb and first finger. Not a big deal. We then got to taste both fresh warm and cold goat’s milk. I had never had goat’s milk before but had heard about how “gamey” it tastes. I was surprised that it didn’t taste that much different than cow’s milk. There was a slight difference, but nothing off putting at all.

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Then we moved on to her jersey cow. There is something about cows. Maybe it was watching city slickers when I was young and growing attached to Norman, but those big brown eyes just get to you. I knew as soon as we brought the cows in, if I was going to be milking something it would have to be a cow. As I said, they milk Jersey cows at Firesign. They can supply up to six gallons of milk a day! Even if you share half with the calf that’s still three gallons a day. That is a lot of milk drinking, cheese making, ice cream making, etc. and I am not interested in starting a herd share program at this point so that was something to think about.

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Seriously, how can you not like cows?

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Filtering the milk

 

Milking the cow seemed easier. I don’t know if it was the size of the udders, or my attitude about the animal, but it was a lot of fun. We then got to try fresh warm milk, and cold which we drink as a family anyway.

The class was great. Ruth was a lot of fun, and a fount of information. I will definitely be going back for more classes which are listed here.

Upon getting home I started doing some research on a cow breed that I have looked up before, the Dexter. Dexter cows are a much smaller breed, and thus produce less milk. More along the lines of one to three gallons a day. Splitting that with a calf now sounds more reasonable. Dexter are also considered a triple threat cattle breed. Not only do they provide milk, but they are a good meat breed as well. The third threat is that they can be draft animals. All I can think about now is how awesome it would be to have a fall party hay ride on a wagon pulled by Dexter cows.

This gives me one more thing to think about. It would be really fun to be able to produce our own milk and cheese from right here on the homestead. I know milking is a chore, but with only one to milk it may be manageable. I have also heard about leaving the calf and heifer together if you want to go on vacation so the calf takes care of the milking while you are on vacation. It isn’t anything I am going to do this winter, unless I run into a smoking deal, but something to think about for the future.