Milking the Cow: Day 1

Sweet and stubborn Gerty

Day 1 – Aug. 14, 2013:

Gerty has been bellowing for a while, by the time I let her into the milking stall. She was separated from her calf from 8:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m., and her udders are obviously sore. She’s grumpy, and she will take it out on me.

She pushes her way through the gate before I’ve finished opening it, and plunges her head into the trough that holds her (non-GMO) grain mixture and some alfalfa. (We want to have her off grain eventually, but we’ll have to improve our pasture quality and barley fodder output first.)

I begin washing her udders with warm, soapy water. She kicks at me. The kick is more like lifting a foot under her body and trying to push me away. It’s a gentle kick; they’ll get harder.

My hands are sore already, from pulling weeds and hanging fence the day before, and my body has grown soft from a summer of academics. I don’t have a stool of the proper height, so I squat beside her and milk with one hand into a bucket I’m holding with another hand. I then occasionally pour from that bucket into another bucket behind me. This keeps her from kicking over my bucket (or putting her foot in it) and ruining the entire batch of milk.

The kicking becomes progressively worse as time goes on. And she starts kicking to the side—at me—rather than just underneath her. One kick would likely have hit my face if my arm weren’t in the way. She lands a nice one on my knee and draws a little blood. Exhausted and frustrated, I smack her, against my better judgement. Mainly, though I just take the abuse and keep milking. I discover that if I hold tight to an udder, she can’t get her leg up to kick me, so the experience becomes a power struggle—her trying to kick me, and me hanging desperately onto her teat.

After what feels like half an hour (though I have no idea how long it took), I give up, and let her out with her calf, who proceeds to suckle all the rich, creamy milk that I couldn’t get.

I end up with less than half a gallon of milk. We refrigerate it, and find that, though it is not as creamy as we would like, it is wonderful. A successful morning, overall.

Problems to fix:

-The stall is too wide, and she can move away from me, so I have to reach far to milk, putting me in a pretty vulnerable and uncomfortable position.

-She can knock the trough around, and so ends up chasing it around the stall.

-She swats me with her tail.

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3 Responses to Milking the Cow: Day 1

  1. cowcrzy says:

    I don’t hand milk (too many cows for that) but I totally get what you mean about them kicking at you…If we have a small heifer in a stall that has a lot of room it is hard to milk her cause she moves sideways making it hard to reach… I am not a very tall person so since we have a herring bone (cows line up kinda sideways and behind each other) I try to make sure the bigger cows surround the heifer making sure she gets held in place by the bigger cows. Good luck with Gerty.

    • Thanks. Today was actually much better… I’m about to write about it. I expect we’ll see increased production and an improved experience very soon.
      There are moments already when I think how it would be nice if a milking machine weren’t so cost-prohibitive.
      On the other hand, milking by hand has a certain nostalgic reward… I wonder if I’ll still be thinking that in January when it’s 15 degrees outside…

      • cowcrzy says:

        I just saw it 🙂 we are milking about 65 cows at the moment why we don’t hand milk Id be there all day and trust me January is not fun lol

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