Adventures in Milking
I’ll start by filling you in on our adventures in milking. We are only milking 2 cows at the moment. It is quite a challenge but we are tough farmers and up to the task.
One of a total of 6 cows did not conceive. Three others birthed calves with no issues. The two we are milking lost their calves. This spring has been a very trying experience for us. We have never lost any calves from seasoned mothers. But nature is in charge and lets us know it at her leisure.
One lost calf was huge. We had to call the vet for that one. It was quite the ordeal and fortunately turned out well for the mother cow. The calf was simply too big to be born. The other cow we are milking had a stillborn calf. It happens sometimes. While understanding nature is what it is, losing animals remains a somber event.
It has been a long, drawn-out process to get to the point where we are able to actually milk these two cows with relative ease. We have built the herd over the past 5 years but still don’t have the milking barn and creamery completed. So as all farmers do, we shoot from the hip and make it happen with what we have.
There is a temporary “barn” where we can work out of the rain. We milked by hand for several weeks while we got them used to the milking area and the process. In other words, we had to spend quite a bit of time training them. There are still a few issues but I consider these quite minor compared to the first day we milked.
Eventually, more than a month later that seemed like a year to my hands, we were able to start milking using a portable milker. This is a small vacuum pump with appropriate hoses that we can wheel around. It makes a mechanical noise, so we ran it while milking by hand so they could get used to the sound. Like I said, it was a long and drawn-out process. It was very hard on my hands. They are still healing but will be fine.
In the beginning we started at 9:00 a.m. and were finished with all milk-related tasks at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. Those were very long days. To be sure, there were contributing circumstances. We rotate our livestock through 14 paddocks. In the beginning the cows were at the farthest reaches of our property. That added a very long time to the routine for walking back-n-forth. I was walking a half mile each morning. It was uphill both ways. Just kidding but not really. It was uphill — but also down hill. . . . and then up hill and down again . . . and again. My health has improved dramatically.
I set a goal to be done with “chores” before noon. We reached that goal and now we start at 8:00 and I am back inside pouring up milk and washing up the containers by 9:00. It is still much slower than we would like but I’m pleased with our progress. We have come so far. Again, pasture rotation is contributing to that success. They are currently keeping these two cows in the paddocks closest to where we milk.
Soon we will start doing this twice a day. We will continue that routine through October or November.
Scott and I are quite a team. Just ask dad.
A Day In The Life
Thankfully, things have finally calmed down somewhat over the past couple of weeks. I get a lot more done each day than just surviving milking. Tasks I have completed today include:
- Bottle feeding Punky, the orphan lamb (The other two needing special attention from last blog are out in the field and doing excellent.)
- Milking cows — pouring up milk, cleaning all the equipment
- Clean all cabinet faces and bleach all counter tops
- Empty dishwasher, refill with breakfast dishes (Scott cooked this morning.)
- Prep beef brisket to be cooked for dinner
- Make ice cream
- Set up waxing operation for cheese
- Turn all cheeses in aging frigs
- Quick check of garden and pull a few pieces of grass (It looks great: More on this later.)
- Check email and note 19 reminders for tasks to be completed (I’m a little behind schedule.)
- Catch up on news reports online (I check Drudge Report daily for headlines.)
- Get started on Farm Blog post (to be completed soon.)
It’s about 1:00 p.m.. Now on to the 2nd half of my day. Complete this post. Record and publish a Village Wisdom Podcast episode. Somewhere in there I’ll get that brisket in the oven and wax a few cheeses.
That’s only half of what is going on today. Scott is out there somewhere sweating and working and working at a dozen other tasks. (He’ll edit this post and perhaps add his own list.)
Okay, then from Scott
My tasks aftering milking:
- Used the “clean-in-place” method of a triple wash to clean and sanitize the bucket milker machine including all of its hoses
- Cleaned and washed down the milking barn floor
- Got the cows back in the paddock while keeping the goats out of the milking barn. And of course, it is very muddy from all the recent rain.
- Made breakfast or brunch for us
- Checked the weather forecast, email and facebook
- Got back to burying the “barn” electrical supply line.
A few weeks ago I had quickly snaked this required line across drives and through the woods to the barn to be able to use the milking machine or anything other electrical need. The milking machine saved our hands and has saved some time, but I had left that electric line on top of the ground where possible. Exceptions were driveways: The heavy electric wire is inside a PVC pipe as it goes under the driveway. Due to the farm layout, the line crosses the driveway four times over the nearly 400′ length.
The wire on top of the ground went through the woods. It needed to be buried a couple inches at least. Wow, there are so many roots and rocks in the top couple of inches! I do not want to trip over it, snag it with the tractor or break it since it was not cheap. I did not get the entire woods areas under the dirt and roots but did get a nice bit done.
- Moved on to chopping down the tall grasses, small bushes and trees that were in the path to the “barn.”
- Although the creamery building site had about 45 trees removed in a basic large way (think bulldozer), there were still lots of limbs, brush and roots to remove before work on the creamery could begin.
- Used those all those trees to add into the bottom of the raised garden beds. See this post on hugelcultur
- Gathered up and reorganized both small and large outside hand tools, gloves and work buckets to reduce clutter and rust.
- Reassembled the pond overflow drain pipe, 40′ and fittings which I had borrowed to drain the cheese making water and whey. Last week I had installed the floor sink to handle this cheese make drain water in a better way.
- Finally, it was time to catch up with refilling the farm fuel supply.
That’s how our day went. How about you? Long days and pleasant nights.