Saturday, 19 September 2009

Two Weeks!

It seems like longer that we've had Lucy and Honey with us, but it's just over two weeks. We've had our ups and downs, but it has generally gotten easier. There's so, so much to learn about - the milking part is relatively easy compared to knowing knots, fencing, building, feed mix (% protein), etc.

A wonderful resource from our local library

Overall, I'm rapt that we got a cow and calf. Getting a herd cow and foster calf is probably the hardest way to go about it, but it's near-impossible to go out and buy a house cow with her own calf at foot.

We're currently still putting the calf to feed from Lucy twice a day at bucket time. Now that Honey is stronger and knows what's going on, this doesn't take much intervention at all. Whilst they're both filling their bellies I can shovel manure, refill water troughs, rake hay and mix feed. In the morning I let them both into the paddock to graze.

In the afternoon I bring them both in for another bucket time. Honey has less milk in the afternoon, and never bothers with the back teats at all. So once she's done (usually collapsing onto the hay with milk froth at her lips and glassy eyes!) I lead Lucy from the pen, out of the paddock and into the milking shed. I clip her halter on a short rope near her feed bucket to hold her still and so she can't turn around in the bails, tie a rope around her hind end so she can't walk backwards, and tie a rope to one leg so she can't kick me. Really, three ropes - and three gates!

Then I wash the udder and squirt a little milk from each teat to flush them out. I wash my hands, put the bucket in place and start milking. At first the milk went in many directions, but by now we're getting almost every drop into the bucket. I keep a second bucket behind me, and tip the milk in every few minutes so that if she should kick or step in the milking bucket, we don't lose the whole lot.Whilst we're milking (my husband helps me) Lucy is quiet. She sniffs and nibbles at her feed, but doesn't eat - just stands there and sighs a lot. We normally take about 3L of milk. If we wanted more milk, we'd feed Lucy more grain mix etc, but for now 3L is enough for our family to drink and make yoghurt and custard.

Once the udder feel nice and empty we move the milk to a safe place and start to untie ropes. We then open the back door to the shed and lead Lucy with the feed bucket back to the pen to be locked up with Honey overnight. They have some mulch hay for bedding, water, and shelter in there.

Then it's time to hose out the milking shed if necessary, roll up all the ropes and open or shut gates ready for the next day. Sometimes I mix and cover the morning feed if I am going to be in a hurry the next day. Finally it's time to put my gumboots away in the shed!
I wash my hands and strain the milk into glass bottles. These go straight to the back of the fridge, behind the previous days' milk. All buckets, strainer, funnel, etc are then washed in very hot soapy water and put away for the next day. All rags (for cleaning udder and wiping up milk spills) go into the wash.

So far I love my routines with the cows. The weather has been mostly fine and everyone normally leaves me in peace to get on with the work. We've all learned a lot and of course, the milk is fantastic!

1 comment:

Ariad said...

wow, sounds like alot of work but also like it's been really rewarding. Oh, that milk must taste good...