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.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

No Crying Over Spilled Milk

Siobhan and I took Sunday off.  Monday was busy for me so Siobhan got another day off.  Today it was back to business.

I went out at 9:00 a.m. and led Siobhan into the barnyard, then went back in the house to work.  At 11:30 I went back to the barnyard with a bucket of hot water and a rag (thanks, Carrie!) and a bucket of ice holding my milking bowl.  Kara came along to take pictures and was very helpful juggling gates and animals, especially with the freedom-loving turkeys and the pushy sheep.

 First I set my two buckets up by the feed box and filled a tub of food for Siobhan and one for Macree.  Then Kara tied Macree while I let Siobhan into the stanchion.

The next improvement I make will be chains to block off access to the feed box from anywhere except through the stanchion.  This morning Siobhan took a shortcut by walking up to the feed box from outside (about where I'm sitting in this photo).  It was a job hauling her head out of the feed and pushing her back to the point where she could enter the stanchion the right way!
I used the warm water with a dash of Dawn to wash Siobhan's udder first.  The dried clump of manure still wouldn't come off so I risked giving it a yank to pull it free.  Siobhan just kept munching!
The next step was wiping each teat with the teat wipes, one wipe per teat.

This little bowl was a lot easier to hold up to the udder than my heavy bucket was.  Perhaps it shows my lack of faith, though, in the quantity of milk I think I'll get!
Thanks to Kara I have a nice clear shot of a beautiful stream of milk hitting the bottom of the bowl.

This shows me "butting" the udder with my fist, then grabbing hold up above the teat.

As I squeeze tight between my forefinger and thumb you can actually see the teat swell with milk.

Then my other fingers squeeze their way down the teat, causing the milk to squirt out.

You can tell Siobhan is very relaxed about the whole process.

I felt selfish having so much fun, so I asked Kara if she wanted to try.  She did.

I gave her a demonstration, and she got a squirt of milk, but the second time Siobhan seemed to object to Kara's technique and gave a little stomp.  We decided not to make her play guinea pig so early on, and Kara went back to taking photos (and getting more feed when Siobhan ran out of it before I was ready to quit).

Next time I'll give her more feed to start with.  The more I give her, the better she'll put on condition and the more milk she'll give--and the longer she'll stand still to let me get my share!  I'm not overly concerned with grass-fed milk at this point.  I just want a contented cow!
When I got up off my bucket seat to switch sides, I sloshed a little milk out.  In just a minute you'll see why I wasn't crying over spilled milk, though.
Kara kindly offered to carry the buckets back home.  The covered one has the bowl of milk on ice.  The bucket of wash water and dirty wipes are in the other hand.  I think Kara makes a beautiful poster girl for the Merry Milkmaid!
Thanks to Amazon Prime, I got my new 10" stainless steel lid in time to use it on my bucket today.
My little bowl nestled safely in the ice, away from flies and heat, while Kara carried it without losing a drop.

The sterilized measuring cup says we got 2/3 of a cup today, not counting the spilled milk we aren't crying over.  From 2 T. to 2/3 of a cup is a nice jump in production, I think!

This is why I use milk filters.

I filtered the milk into a sterilized Mason jar so it could chill in the fridge.  I washed out the milking bowl, put the ice in it, and put the jar of milk on ice in the fridge.

Somehow I'll manage to wait until Herb gets home this afternoon to break out the ice cold milk for a tasting.

Yes, I spilled some milk, but there's nothing to cry over here!

This makes me smile! 


  1. Awesome pics and story! I sooooo need a stanchion for Leila (my dexter herd queen), but she's so easy to milk, you can walk out and milk her in the pasture with no rope, no feed. We could not love these cows more! She should be freshening again soon. I may have to steal your stanchion design. :)

    1. Thank you, Karnie, and you are more than welcome to use our design. (There's a more complete post on that a few weeks earlier.) We certainly helped ourselves to ones we found on the internet! That is wonderful to have a cow you can milk like that. Good for Leila! (And you!) I don't quite think Siobhan is there yet. :) We love our Dexters, too!

  2. Wow, sweet . . . . milk!

    1. Yes! Sweet in more ways than one! It tastes sweet, too! :)

  3. Oh these pics bring back sooooo many memories for me.
    I remember when I got my first few squirts of milk from my dexters. To this day it is one of my life highlights. I got about a shot glass worth of dirty filthy milk ( I was not actually planning to milk, just see how she would react to having her teats stripped in prep for my first real attempt at actual milking the next day). Oh what a joy!
    I still have the pic of the precious 'white gold' on my fridge 3 years later, and I still am in awe when I see a big old jar of beautiful milk in my fridge. A nearby milker guy coined it best - I think - " I am not just drinking milk... I am drinking LOVE."
    Don't worry, you'll be getting quantity soon enough.

    1. Thank you for your lovely, encouraging comment, Laura. And I'm getting over a quart when I milk now, often 5+ cups. I haven't gotten blasé about the thrill yet--and don't think I ever will. It's such a wonderful partnership and process. I love your milker friend's phrase: "I am not just drinking milk . . . I am drinking LOVE." I hope he won't mind if I quote him in a post. :) If you want to tell me his name (and if he wants me to) I'll give him credit. Otherwise I'll just quote him as "an eloquent milker." :)

      By the way, Grass Valley sounds like a wonderful place to be raising Dexters!


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