Early morning milking

Aug 22 2011 0 Comments Tags: cow, milking

I keep forgetting to take photos at milking time because its usually still dark, but we slept in a little the other day, so I was able to take a few photos so that I can explain the process.



As you can see we bought a mini milking machine.  I would have loved to hand milk, it seems so romantic and in touch with nature, but we have tried to hand milk Bella a couple of times, just to see if we could and that made me very glad to have a milking machine instead!  Bella has VERY small teats, you can only wrap a couple of fingers around them, instead of your whole hand, so it makes hand milking very slow (apparently cows are being bred to have smaller teats to suit milking machines, rather than hand milking which is better with longer teats, just another frustrating consequence of industrial farming).  Its also interesting how much dirt and hair ends up in your hand milking bucket.  When we'd finished, I wasn't too confident that the milk was clean, whereas if it get sucked straight from the teats into our milk can, there's not much chance of any contamination.  So its turned out to be a good purchase.

Each morning we get up around 5:30am.  People say that you have to milk at the same time every day, but if you think about a large farm, with 100+ cows, milking may take a couple of hours and in that case each cow would get milked at a different time each day anyway, so I don't think Bella minds if we are half an hour either way (usually late!).


We prepare a bucket of milled grain of Bella food the night before, so we can just grab the food bucket, a bucket with a little hot water in it and the milking machine and take it all down to the milking bales.  Bella is usually waiting by the gate.  For the food, not the milking!  I doubt that any cows actually enjoy milking, unless they have a very full udder, but they all get fed either immediately before, or during, milking, so that's why you see them walking over to the milking shed.

We then wash Bella's teats with warm water and turn on the milking machine.  When the vacuum is established we put the teat cups on Bella's teats and watch the milk being sucked up into the milk can.  When not much milk is coming over we break the vacuum and remove the teat cups.  We tip the milk from the can into a stainless steel bucket via a funnel with a piece of cheese cloth clamped over an in-built filter.  Depending how much milk is in the bucket, sometimes we then pour it into jugs, or just put the whole bucket (with lid) in the fridge.


The milking machine is then cleaned by sucking a bucket of warm water/detergent through the machine (steaming hot water would damage the pump, as does strong chemicals or too much suds).  The clean up for the milking machine is pretty simple, so its really not any more difficult than hand milking.

Bella then gives the rest of her milk to Molly while she eats some hay.

Do you hand-milk or machine-milk or both?  Any advice?


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