"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Milking the cow

The core of each day is the milking.
Rain, hail or shine the milking is a chore that cannot be ignored and if you wish to have a milk cow then this is the responsibility that comes with it. For the first four months after the new calf is born we milk mornings only and let the calf have the evenings milk. After the calf is weaned we milk twice a day, every day.
Annabelle gives around six litres per milking on average. Twelve litres per day give or take a few litres depending upon the season. When the grass is sweet and plentiful due to plenty of good sun and warmth the milk volume rises. On these days Anna will be waiting for us each morning outside the milking shed, her udder drum skin tight and looking forward to being milked.
If the weather has been foul and the grass is sour she will usually still be out in the field. On these days she will be grouchy and needs to be driven into the shed to be milked. Her milk yield drops noticeably too. Long periods of rain and cloudy weather can make the grass "sour off" and become less palatable to cattle. In turn they will consume less and the milk drops off. Dairy farmers hate this sort of weather.
Both Anna and I off in our own thoughts.
So at about seven thirty each morning I stumble out to the milking shed. I quite like the milking. It is a wonderful chance to just sit and think as the milk hisses into the bucket. I use this time to plan the day and just enjoy the morning sounds.
A cow has to be trained to be milked, it does not just come naturally. To do this we bring her into the milking bales every day of the year for her morning and evening feed. The food she gets, usually some oaten chaff and molasses, is really just a treat so she enjoys milking time. In the bales she learns to stand quietly in position and to not be afraid of being touched.
The littlest cloud farmer discussing the world with Emily.
We are in the process of training our young heifer Emily to the bales. Fortunately she is a placid little girl and has taken to the training well. The bales shown here are my own design. The cow walks in from the end to the feed bucket at the end nearest the wall. When done the gate is opened and she can walk forwards and out of the bales. Knowledgeable types will note we milk our cows from the near side (the left side) whereas many people traditionally milk from the off (right) side. Personally I don't think the cow gives a damn.

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