The Milking Diaries - Part 2 (Jubilant)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

This is the continuation of my first experiences milking our jersey house cow Bessy.  I hope by journaling my experience you can learn from it & maybe not make all of the mistakes I made.
Part 1 can be found HERE

With the inbuilt confidence that we optimists are born with, I eagerly awaited the birth of Bessy's first calf. Finally, after what seemed like months of noticing every single change in her udder, we knew she was in labour.  The next morning sadness hovered over the farm as the still calf lay where it had been born - never having taken a breath.

Just look at that udder -ow!  This was just before she went into labour.
 I was worried, because I'd planned to let the calf take the colostrum & not attempt milking for a couple of weeks....but we had a lactating cow with a leaking udder and no calf to ease her distress.
I did what any newbie would do...I put her into a shed with a gate across the front to keep her in, tied her up & tied up one leg as I remembered my grandparents doing with their milking cow & did my best to milk her through the small gaps the gate allowed me to reach through.  

Unfortunately this was a cow who was not used to her leg being tied.  She was not really used to any type of restraining & she was not in a happy mood.  She kicked & kicked & kicked trying to free that leg.  This made it far too hazardous for me to milk her.  There was no way I was going to succeed while trying to dodge the hoof that was quite obviously too loosely tied (knots are not my forte).  
Finally, after much struggling, she got her leg free.  At last she was happy to stand there &  munch on her grain.  She finally allowed me to take some of the milk out of her bulging udder.  Tentatively at first, for fear of receiving a hoof to my arm, I massaged each teat as I'd read about & much to my delight was rewarded with thick colostrum.  It seemed like hours, although I'm sure it was just minutes, and my arms began to ache & my body, unused to the crouching position needed for such a small breed of cow, was cramping and still I persisted until I could at least see a visible difference.  And that was it for that first day... we had to go & find a calf & quickly because throwing the colostrum away was such a waste! 

When Bessy was again mooing in pain the next morning, and the adopted calf was still crying for his birth mother, I realised that I would again have to attempt to milk Bessy.  This time, being wise, I didn't even try to tie up her foot, but did much the same as I'd done the day before.  Thankfully she was compliant & allowed me to ease her pain.  I, however, was feeling these new muscles needed for milking.  While I have always played the piano so my fingers were not too sore, my wrists felt as if they were on fire, my arms were aching & my legs were cramping even after just a short time of milking.  However, as I've said before, I do tend to be a mite bull-headed and a little pain wasn't going to stop me...

That evening, as we'd had not visible signs of the calf drinking, I thought I'd better attempt it all again.  As I went to bring her in, I realised that she was perfectly calm where she was & so I thought back to the legends of my Great-grandmother who used to milk her cows in the paddock.  Knowing I have inherited her love for animals, & knowing that Bessy was my baby & knows me well, I thought I would attempt it.  Carefully, slowly I leaned down & much to my delight she held still while I milked her right there in the paddock where she ate.  Jubilantly I bragged to Dave that evening about my prowess....

  Part three coming soon....

(Sorry...if I don't take a break this will be much too long for a blog post).

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