This is the final part of my series on getting started with a family milk cow. Thus far, we’ve covered what needs to be considered before bringing home the cow. We’ve also discussed buying the cow. Hopefully, you’ve purchased all your milking equipment and feed before your milk cow comes around. You can read about some of the equipment I use here. I also highly recommend having a second refrigerator in your home for the milk. (Assuming you live in this century and have at least one fridge in your home already.) Once you start milking, you’ll be surprised how quickly the gallons add up.
I’ve written previously about the actual process of milking. I would definitely not recommend learning to milk on a cow you just brought home, unless you have someone more experienced who can assist. Why? Because when you first start milking, you are very slow at it. If you bring home a milk cow that is already in milk and then try to figure out how to milk her, you and the cow are in for a frustrating time. If you want to learn how to milk, perhaps you can find someone with a milk goat or cow who is willing to teach you and let you practice on their animal.
Once you have your milk cow and are ready to get in the milking groove, what comes next? Here, I write about the basics of what to expect. Since you’ve done your research, you should know how much milk your cow is going to give each milking. Unless you have a Holstein, you’re probably looking at somewhere between 1-2 gallons each milk session. I go through a step-by-step guide here on everything from washing the teats to straining the milk.
There are a couple of things I’d like to add to my earlier guide. People use different things to strain their milk. I was using old, washed and bleached cut-up T-shirts as cloths to put over the gallon milk jars. However, I’ve switched to using a reusable steel coffee filter, like this one. I think it’s easier to clean and will last longer than the milk rags I was using. Many milkers like to use a “teat dip” after milking. This gives an extra layer of protection against mastitis. Another step I need to add is spraying for flies. In fly season, you will want to spray down your cow thoroughly before trying to milk. Otherwise she is kicking at flies while you milk, not ideal.
Another aspect to be aware of when you have your own cow is what I call “the cyclical side of milking.” What I mean by this is making sure your cow stays in milk by making sure she is bred on time. I discuss this in more detail here.
I hope I’ve given some direction to anyone who is thinking about getting their own family milk cow. As anyone with one can attest, they are a lot of work. However, it is nice have your own source of healthy, fresh dairy. It can be fun to experiment with different dairy treats such as yogurt and cheese. Best of luck and happy milking!