The Milking Diaries ~ Part 3: Frustrated

Thursday, February 5, 2015

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 One can be found HERE
Part Two can be found HERE

A paddock is not the best place to milk a cow.  

At least that's what I learned after doing it numerous times over the weeks that followed the birth of Bessy's first calf.  It may be a perfectly acceptable place to milk if you have an old cow who knows what is going on & happily stands still. But my cow, let's just say that she's a little strong-willed, (and maybe a lot greedy).  Probably she also had no idea what I was trying to do under there.  As I tried to milk her, she would stand still.  That is until she saw some sweet, green grass just out of reach. She would then take a step to get to that grass.  Needless to say this meant I had to reposition myself & the bucket every time she spied something appealing (thankfully she was very careful not to step in the bucket....unless she was annoyed). Every morning this would happen over & over & over.  It didn't take me long until I had enough of this.  The little milk I was getting was not sufficient for the amount of work I had to put in following our silly cow around the paddock as she step, step, stepped...

We would love to cement our milking area.  Dirt very quickly becomes mud with very little rain & it gets rather messy! We have since put down crusher dust as a temporary solution.

And so a possible solution came in the form of a gift from a friend.  This friend is one of Dave's closest mates & when he heard of my frustration he gifted us with an old bale that his grandmother used with her milk cows  many years ago.  With thankfulness, we quickly cemented it into the ground and eagerly anticipated a less troubled milking.

That first morning with the bale began well...Bessy was eating her grain from the bale & so we decided to close the head holder ( not sure of it's correct term).  Unfortunately Miss Bessy was too fast.  She quickly understood what was going to happen & removed her head....sigh....this happened over & over & the end I just gave up & milked her where she stood.  And so a new routine began.  Bessy would happily stand still at the bale to munch on her grain, but as soon as she finished she would walk off.  (As I was a novice milker, I was still taking a while to empty her udder.) I would then follow her around to try to get the rest of the milk.  Eventually  I gave up & put the calf back on her for the day.  

In these photos part of our solution is seen.  I will share more in the last part of this saga.

We had decided early on to milk her every second day.  I thought that would be easiest to juggle with everything else I was trying to achieve.  She had a calf so it wasn't really an issue for her milk production.  It's not like we were getting a lot of milk from her anyway.  However, we have decided not to do that in the future.   It seemed to confuse her.  It also meant I didn't have a regular routine which my body seems to thrive on.  It may work if you have an old cow that will let down for you, but Bessy certainly wasn't letting down for us knowing that her calf would be waiting for his feed as soon as we were finished.    

Another thing we would not do again is keep the calf on her endlessly.  As Bessy did not let down properly until ( well you will need to read the last of this epistle to find out when), we have decided that in the future we will remove the calf as early as they can possibly be weaned.  We may even bottle feed if we feel it needs that ( with Bessy's milk of course).

While the calf was on Bessy, we were getting just 4 or so litres of milk at a single milking.  I would read about the endless milk that other cows were producing & I was so frustrated.
Why was nothing going right?
Why couldn't I master this?
What was wrong with my cow?

 It seemed that I was doomed to fail....

...good thing I'm stubborn!

Have a wonderful day friends

(A note about the photos:  Bessy began to get her head stuck into the half of the bale that didn't have the feed trough.  She would go searching for the grain that fell out & somehow she would get it stuck.  She would then look at me so mournfully & I would then spend the next 20 minutes turning her head each which way until I eventually managed to get it out again.  This went on for about a week.  Eventually it happened one day when I had to take Dave to work ( I can't even remember why).  I had no choice, but to leave her there as he would be late otherwise.  I made sure she had plenty of grain to nibble on & promised to return as soon as I could to free her.  Upon returning back to the farm, I saw her wandering around the front paddock - obviously free.  She has never got her head stuck in there again. )
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