When you drink raw milk from a family milk cow, it’s very important to make sure the milk doesn’t get contaminated. From start to finish, you want to keep everything as clean as you can. Not only is it advisable to keep the process clean for your own benefit, but making sure the cow’s teats are clean is important to guard against mastitis.
I’ve had to implement some extra measures this milk cycle to aid in mastitis prevention after battling the infection twice in one month. Since adding these extra steps, Sienna has remained healthy. (Knock on wood.)
Along with a stainless, steel milk bucket, I also bring a small plastic bucket to the barn that holds soapy water. Once Sienna is in the stanchion merrily eating her feed, I aggressively wipe down Sienna’s teats and udder with a soapy rag from the water bucket. Doing this removes as much dirt, manure, loose hair, and skin as possible before milking.
Once she is clean, I take a dry rag and dry her. Then I spray teat wash (also called teat dip) on all four teats, taking extra care to make sure the tips are covered, since that’s where bacteria can get in and cause mastitis. The teat wash has to stay on for a minimum of 20 seconds. I then use paper towels to wipe the teats clean. After squirting a few streams of milk out onto the ground, I’m ready to milk into the bucket.
When I finish milking, I cover the milk bucket with a lid. This keeps any floating dust or dirt from getting into the milk. I also spray teat wash on Sienna again, but don’t wipe it off this time.
Once I bring the milk into the house, I strain it through a coffee filter and into a glass jar. I put the milk into the freezer for an hour and then into the refrigerator. I’ve found that cooling it down fast, as in the freezer, keeps the milk from developing an aftertaste.
Of course, all glass jars, lids, the strainer, and the bucket have to be washed thoroughly after each use.
One extra step I’ve recently implemented includes feeding Sienna a little kelp in her feed. My hope is that the nutrition in the kelp will boost her immune system and help her naturally fight off any infections.
If caught early enough, I treat Sienna’s mastitis with a couple doses of ToDAY, an antibiotic injection that’s squirted into the teat. I only take her to the vet if the infection has gotten bad, because I don’t like to give her oral antibiotics if I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. (Giving oral antibiotics means a 10-day milk discard period.) As it is, when you treat with ToDAY, you have to throw out any milk for 96 hours after the final injection. That’s a lot of wasted milk. How much? Well, if I give two doses, that means I’m throwing out five days worth of milk or about 15 gallons. That’s why you want to avoid the infection in the first place!