Getting a Family Milk Cow – Part 1
When You Have a Cow You Have it All
When you take the plunge to owning a milk cow you have gone where few have gone before. There was a time back in the 1700’s when every family had their own milk cow. When families loaded up the wagons and went on vacation, they took their milk cows with them. A milk cow in the backyard was normal and most children milked the cows before they went to school everyday.
Those days are long gone and if you have a milk cow today you are OK in my book. Well, you are more than OK, you are probably pretty die-hard, quite adventurous and a bit of a rebel.
Let me tell you about when we got our first cow…….
We bought our cow from a dairy farm in Indiana.
She was 6 years old when we got her.
All the cows on the dairy farm loved my youngest daughter. She had sunflowers on her shirt. She had sunflowers on her boots. The cows thought she was a buffet.
“Can I eat that?”
I’ll never forget that day. My 4 children were running around this poor man’s dairy farm trying to “pet” a cow. The cows thought they were being ambushed & were all running for the hills. It didn’t take the dairy owner long to put all the pieces together…..
“I know what you want.” He said.
Then he took us to a barn and brought in 2 cows who looked just like all the others…… except they didn’t run from our children. They settled in. They nestled their giant heads into our laps. They tilted their necks so we could scratch behind their ears. These were not your everyday, average dairy cows. These were pets.
Yes, we wanted a pet we could milk. The dairy owner knew exactly what we needed.
One of the 2 cows he brought for us to meet was, Faith.
Faith lived with 120 lovely, bovine ladies. She had been milked in a dairy line her entire life.
She had always been milked by an electric milk pump twice a day every day. A very powerful, talented pump that could empty her udder in approximately 30 seconds flat.
Caution. We interrupt this road for cow crossing. The ladies must get to the Milking Parlor which happens to be….Eh… Hem…… on the other side of the road.
Bad cow joke:
Why did the cows cross the road?
To get to the Milking Parlor.
When all the cows came in to be milked we met Faith.
We milked Faith.
We fell in love.
“Mom, Dad, Can we keep her? Please?”
The previous owner was kind enough to deliver Faith to our farm. It is a good thing, because we would have had to walk her, or ride her, or carry her since we had no way to transport an 800 pound animal. Come to think of it, we couldn’t even transport a 200 pound animal. Unless you count the back of my minivan as animal transportation. I’m pretty sure DH doesn’t.
Faith showed up and we were smitten.
She loved the pasture. She loved her run-in. She loved the sweet feed. We loved her. We had no problems getting her to come into the milking parlor for milking because we had a bucket of food. If a bucket of food is involved, Faith will follow you to the moon.
Faith’s normal routine was to be milked at 6:30am, on a line, with 120 other cows, with an electric milker, in 30 seconds flat, by people who knew what they were doing.
Poor cow. She got us. My oldest daughter and I had a vague idea of how to milk a cow. We had both milked a goat before. How hard could it be?
We decided that 6:30am was a little early. The previous owner said 7:00 was fine. So, at 7:00 the next morning we brought Faith into the barn, tied her to the wall, put a couple of scoops of feed in front of her face & mounted our stools for the first milking.
So, I am on one side of the cow with a teat in each hand. My oldest daughter is on the other side of the cow with a teat in each hand. We are giving it all we’ve got. We both have worked up a decent sweat. Our hands are cramping. Our fingers are numb. Our backs hate us. And little did we know, we were just getting started.
Bless her poor, little heart. We were so inadequate, had so much to learn, and there was no teacher. All we could do is keep dumping scoops of feed in front of her face to keep her content so we could continue the painful, never-ending process.
It took us 36 minutes and more feed than any cow needs to eat, to empty her udder.
That’s with a person on each side of the cow.
2 people – 36 minutes to get all the milk out.
If I had been alone – it would have taken me over an hour and when it was over I would have needed a hospital bed. I’m just sayin’. Milkin’ ain’t for sissies.
The first day was the worst. It got better from there. After 2 weeks of milking we could empty her in 10 minutes (with a person on each side of the cow). To those of you that milk a cow by hand BY YOURSELF – You are amazing! You are gifted! You deserve a gold medal! You are also probably very skinny.
All my homesteading, hand-milking, dreams would soon be shattered.
Read Part 2 here.