Now that I’m back from vacation, I’m on the hunt for a calf to put on Sienna. Seven-Up is four months old now, and I’m ready to wean him. He’s become a real pain when I separate him from his mama. That means he’s far too rambunctious for as big as he’s gotten. Hopefully, I can post about a new calf next time. For now, I wanted to write a more detailed post about my milking process.
I’ll include my usual disclaimer up front: There are many different ways to go about milking a family milk cow. This is just a step-by-step account of how I milk mine.
Before I head outside, I wash my hands, grab my bucket and a washcloth, and dunk the cloth in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. The vinegar is a natural way to help better clean the teats. I then go up to the barn and measure out Sienna’s feed.
I will be the first to admit that I am not very selective and precise on the exact nutrition my milk cow should have at each feeding. I am not a dairy. Obviously, big operations have all that down to a science and feed the most they can for the best production. What I decide to feed is based on three things: nutrition, cost, and time. I want to give Sienna high-protein feed that will increase her productivity but won’t break the bank. By “time,” I mean I want to give her just enough so that she keeps busy eating while I milk, but isn’t still eating when I get done. To meet all of this, here’s the mixture she gets when I milk: 20 percent protein cattle cubes, alfalfa pellets, sweet feed, a handful of cattle mineral, and some alfalfa hay. The alfalfa hay really slows down her eating. She has to eat around it to get all the feed first, then she’ll finish off the hay. (I used to feed oats instead of sweet feed, but that got too expensive.)
I pour all the feed into a large bucket that is located behind Sienna’s stanchion. I then let Sienna into the barn, and she puts her head through the stanchion to eat. I wipe off her teats and udder as thoroughly as I can to get any dirt, hair, and debris off. Then I milk into the bucket.
Once that’s done, I let Sienna out of the stanchion and out of the barn. Her work is done. She has it rough, huh? Stand there and eat.
One step I will add if the teats are looking rough and dry is to put salve on them. I’ve used two different kinds. I currently have Udder Balm, but I’ve always had Bag Balm in the past. Both are good and really help soften up the teats. (Think lotion for your hands.)
Next, I bring the milk into the house, wash my hands, and strain the milk through a milk cloth into a glass gallon jar. If the milk is really foamy, sometimes I’ll take a metal strainer and take some of the froth off before I try to strain it through the cloth. Once the lid is on the jar, I put a label on it with the date. “M” is for morning, and “E” is for evening. It’s very important to date the milk, so you can use the oldest first. By the way, I use old, cut-up T-shirts that have been washed and bleached for my milk cloths. They work really well at letting the milk through and keeping any hair out.
You want to keep the milk as cold as possible without freezing it. I usually put my fridge on the coldest setting. The colder you keep your milk, the longer it will last. I usually tell people to try and use up raw milk within 10 days. However, if you keep it cold, it can last longer. Before I left for vacation, I had a gallon of milk dated 10/8 in my fridge. When I returned, I checked, and it was still good. It’s now 16 days old, and we still used it for cereal this morning. I don’t expect it to stay good much longer. You can freeze milk and use it when thawed, but I don’t like to do that because the texture changes. For my post about milk containers, click here.
The last step in the milking process is to wash your stainless steel bucket with hot water and soap. Then you are ready for the next milking!