Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Got (Dexter) Milk? . . . YES!!!

We finally got our first Dexter milk!  Now don't laugh--it's only exciting to us--but I milked Siobhan today for the first time.

First time ever for me to milk a cow.

First time ever for Siobhan to be milked.

My goal was for the experience to be positive for Siobhan.  Period.  Milk was optional, but not required!

To get to this point I have done tons of research on the internet, joined a Yahoo "Milking Dexters" group and an "A2 Milk" group, perused online catalogs, ordered the necessary equipment, come up with plans for the milking stanchion I wanted, and cleaned the stanchion once Herb built it.

I started out this morning by getting my supplies* ready:

NSF stainless steel milk bucket, sterilized in the dishwasher
Lid from one of my pots that fits the bucket, washed and rinsed with boiling water
Bucket of teat wipes, opened and the center wipe pulled up for easy grabbing (like diaper wipes)*
Fight Bac teat disinfectant to apply to the teats after milking to discourage mastitis

These supplies went out to the barn with me.

*There are lower-cost ways to do what my milking supplies do.  They are also more labor-intensive, for the most part.  After reflection, I decided to go with "Easy" and "Foolproof."  Maybe some day I'll switch to more labor-intensive but more cost-effective methods.  Maybe . . .

NSF stainless steel milk strainer (left and the holey piece in the rear)
NSF stainless steel adaptor for mason jars (the ring at right)
Box of milk filters with one ready (right)
Mason jar sterilized in the dishwasher, ready to strain milk into

These supplies were ready to go on a clean paper towel in the kitchen

The first step was to get Siobhan in the stanchion with plenty of the food she loves.  (Note to self:  It works better if you remember to OPEN the head catcher bars BEFORE she puts her head into the bucket!  It's a lot harder if you have to pull her head out of the bucket, push her back, open the bars, and then let her back at the food!  Not to worry, there are bound to be a few kinks to work out!)

Now that the Home Pasture has recovered from having the cattle on it when Macree was born, I have them back again--handily across the drive from the barnyard.  It was easy to clip a lead on Cash and Siobhan and lead them into the barnyard.  Catching Macree was a little harder . . . I had to leave the gate open and let her follow.  Then Cash got tied up out of the way while I left Macree to wander around.

The next step was to clean the teats, one wipe per teat.  The rear one had a tiny clump of dried manure above it which I decided NOT to yank off (remembering my goal of a positive experience)!

Over to the "udder" side to clean.  :)  That one had a burr which I also decided not to yank off. ( Note to self:  Bring a blunt-tipped bandage scissors tomorrow to remove offending manure clumps and burrs.)

Sorry, no photos of me milking.  I haven't figured out how to do a "selfie" of that!  This shows the Fight Bac dripping off the teats after I finished milking and sprayed them.   I was thrilled that Siobhan didn't react at all to having her teats sprayed; she hates being sprayed for flies.

This is where you might laugh if you didn't know better.  Fortunately, I had read enough to know not to expect more than a couple tablespoons of milk the first time from an FF (first freshener).

I had also read enough to know to expect debris and hair in the milk despite cleaning the udder.  That's why I bought filters.

Woo-hoo!  We've got milk!  Like I said, you might be inclined to laugh, but I'm smiling a mile wide!

I'm also hot, red and sweaty!  But I'm REALLY happy!  My first milking was a success for many reasons:

1)  It was a positive experience for Siobhan.

2)  Siobhan never even thought about kicking, she was so busy eating.

3)  I got milk to come out!  I milked a goat once, many years ago.  I knew how to do it in theory, but I'd never actually milked a cow.  So milk squirting with a metallic tinkle into the bucket was HUGE for me!

4)  When I couldn't get more than a dribble from a teat, I tried "butting" Siobhan's udder like the calf does, and I got more milk.  I'm getting a feel for what to do.

5)  Siobhan's front teats are short enough to make milking them a bit trickier, but I began to get the feel of where to "pinch off" up above the teats before squeezing.

6)  After I let Siobhan out of the stanchion, she helped Cash and Macree finish up their feed.  Then she climbed back up into the milking parlor to look for more!  I'd say she's definitely got the idea!

Kara and Herb were eager to try the milk, still warm from Siobhan.  Once it was strained into a small glass bowl (the Mason jar would have been over-kill), we each got a couple of teaspoons full.  Kara drained the bowl.

She pronounced it "sweet" and "delicious."  And then she said,  "You need to get a butter churn."  With faith like that in Siobhan and me, how can we possibly fail?

I'll do a few things differently tomorrow:

I'll spray Siobhan for flies well before I put her in the stanchion (to avoid associating it with something she hates).
I'll try to get Macree in the pen next to the milking parlor, although Siobhan didn't seem at all worried about her.  Or I may just let her up into the milking parlor if she wants to come.
I'll open the head catcher bars first; in fact, I left them open today when I finished.
I'll milk into a small stainless bowl because that bucket gets a bit heavy to hold up close to the udder.
I'll put ice into the bucket and place the bowl of milk in the ice as soon as I'm done milking.
I already ordered an NSF stainless steel lid on Amazon so I never have to track down a lid for the bucket.

And finally, I'll try to remember that I'm not going to be making butter, cheese and yogurt with an FF!  I'm milking now because I'm training Siobhan and teaching myself so that when she freshens with her second calf, I'll have plenty of time to devote to making stuff with the milk I'll get!


  1. Yeah for you and Siobhan! I don't even know you but very proud of you. We've been dairy farmers for 18 years and still it is a thrill to get milk. A miracle for sure.

    1. Thank you, Donna, for sharing our joy! You put even more icing on the cake of today! :) And "miracle" is a good word to describe the way God set up this process!

  2. Susan this looks wonderful! What a blessing to experiance the fruits of your labors.

    1. Thank you, Tessa. Yes it is very exciting and a true blessing!

  3. Oh, Susan, as soon as I saw you with the pail of milk, I started smiling, too! How exciting!

    1. Thank you, Barbara! It really is! Maybe next year there will be enough for you all to have some when you visit!

  4. Very cool! We are hoping to milk our Dexter soon as well.

    1. I'd love to hear how it goes, Mrs_Gillies!

  5. Kudos to you! I only hope we're as fortunate to have as positive experience with April when the time comes!

    1. Thank you, Teresa! I'd love to hear how it turns out for you. I think that the times we put Siobhan in the stanchion without restraining her and just let her eat made her ready to go in easily. I also think that milking her the first time when the calf had just been on her kept her from being tender and "touchy." It was worth it to get only 2 T. if it meant she didn't have a reason to object to the process because of discomfort. And input from many other milkers who led me to have only the goal of a good experience (instead of hoping for a lot of milk) really shaped my attitude--and probably Siobhan's, too. I neglected to say this in the post, but I've been grooming her for this from the time she was born, handling her and her udder. I'm already starting on her calf, Macree!

  6. Hooray! I'm so happy that you got to milk Siobhan... and that you got milk on the first try! I absolutely love reading your blog... it's almost as if you're here telling the story in person! :)

    1. Thank you, Victoria! It makes me so happy when someone enjoys my blog! :)


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