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, November 9, 2013

Milking My Dexter--My Favorite Time of Day!

I started milking Siobhan on August 17 when Macree was almost 2 1/2 months old.  It's been almost three months since I started milking, so it's time for an update.  Here's our routine:
  • I fill a stainless bucket with hot, soapy water and add a clean microfiber washcloth.  I no longer advocate using water to clean the udder.  See this update.
  • I put my milking cup into my stainless milking bucket and put the lid on.
  • I put a clean dish towel through the handle on the lid.
  • I carry both these buckets out to my Kubota RTV and drive to the barnyard.  (I could walk, but the animals have gotten used to the sound of the RTV meaning food, and this is just easier!)
  • Once in the barnyard, I go put my buckets into the milking parlor.
  • Then I fill Siobhan's feedbox with hay, put her rubber tub on top of the hay, and add 4-5 large tomato cans of feed.  (The feed is half rice bran, half sweet feed.)
  • I also put a can of feed on the milking parlor floor at the front of the stanchion where I'll tie Macree. 

Next I tie Siobhan up and walk over to the round pen to get Macree.

 Macree has just gotten over her calf shyness and been willing to let me walk right up to her.  However, all along she has been willing for me to lead her into the round pen at night to separate her from mom and just as willing to come out in the morning.  In other words, she learned the milking routine and went along with it even when at other times her calf shyness prevailed.
While I'm getting the food ready and bringing Macree, Siobhan usually poops and pees where she's tied.  This is exactly what I want because that means she won't do it in the stanchion!  She still pees sometimes, but that's easy to clean up!

Next I bring Macree over to nurse.  I take her to the right side because it's always fullest, so she gets it started for me.  This is "let down nursing."  "Let down nursing" has a double meaning.  I let Macree nurse for about 30 seconds or until I see her swallowing readily--that means Siobhan has let down her milk for her calf.  Then I pull Macree off--that's the other let down!

First I tie Macree up front close to Siobhan's head.  I tie her quite short so she can't get her head over to interfere with mom.  Then I bring Siobhan into the stanchion.  I try to make sure the neck catcher is OPEN before I get Siobhan in the stanchion because if it's not, she can still get her head into her feed, and it is very difficult to pry it out again to put the neck catcher in place!

Macree doesn't even mind now when I pull her off Siobhan because she knows she has feed waiting for her.

This shot shows my set up.  On the left (from the back):
  • My bucket of teat wipes.  I use these to wipe each teat after washing and drying the udder.
  • My can of Fight Bac.  I use this to spray each teat when I'm done to help prevent mastitis (although Macree usually nurses all four teats as soon as she gets a chance.)
  • My wash bucket of hot, soapy water.  Note the green towel hanging next to Siobhan.  After I handle the lead ropes, especially Macree's which drags on the ground, I wash my hands in the soapy water, then wash and dry Siobhan's udder before using the teat wipes.  Hand washing is fine, but not udder washing.
  • Up on the stanchion is a green can of Bag Balm.  Once I dry the udder and my hands, I spread some Bag Balm on my hands and on all four teats.  Then I wipe my hands on the towel so they won't be too slippery!
  • The large black bucket is one of my two milking "stools."  I found great padded, swivel seats at Tractor Supply.  They screw into the top of a 5 gallon bucket and are much more comfortable to sit on than an up-ended bucket--despite the amount of padding it looks like I carry around with me!
  • On the parlor floor next to the bucket are the used teat wipes.  When I'm all done, they get tossed in the empty wash bucket.
On the right: 
  • You see me sitting on my other stool.  I milk from both sides to make it easier on my shoulders (less reaching).  I think it also has gotten Macree used to having me right next to her.  So far (I'm really asking for it here!) I haven't gotten pooped on!  
  • Behind Macree is the galvanized garbage can that holds the feed mix 
  • with a bucket of lime sitting next to it.  If either of the girls poops, after I hose out the milking parlor I sprinkle lime on the manure and the manure-y water on the ground.
  • You can just see my hose at the extreme right side of the photo.  After I take the girls back to their pasture, I come back and turn on the hose.  It has a valve on the end that I keep closed until I'm ready for it.  This helps prevent me from flooding the area in front of the stanchion.  Dry = no mud tracked into the milking parlor.

In this close-up of me milking, you can see that Macree has just peed!  She used to poop quite regularly, but she seems to be able to wait longer now.  I don't know if she's actually learning not to, but I hope so!

This photo shows my greatest little milking aid--my stainless camping cup.  I usually start out milking directly into the bucket, but Siobhan does tend to move her feet occasionally, and once I hear her finish her feed, I usually switch to this cup.  I used to hold a stainless bowl, but it weighs over a pound.  This little cup weighs just over 5 oz.  My hands and arms appreciate the difference!

You might also note that I'm wearing barn boots.  These are great when it's time to hose out the milking parlor.

Siobhan eats happily as long as I want to milk.  She's always been very patient, but since we got hay, she's even more patient!  When she's done with her feed, she picks her rubber tub up and tosses it--one reason I always keep the lid on the milk bucket!  (Soggy feed flying into it the milk once was enough to teach me!)  Then she starts in on her hay and munches away as long as I keep her there.

When I'm done milking, I take Macree out of the stanchion first--just in case she might decide to poop!  Then I bring Siobhan out and shut the gate so the chickens don't get in.  Macree always dashes to nurse.  I think it's hilarious that she's still so bent on nursing when she has to get down on her knees!  She can go hours and hours out in the pasture being nowhere near Siobhan, but 12 hours away from mama reminds her she's still a baby!

The other day I caught Siobhan pressing her face to Macree's leg and closing her eyes contentedly while Macree nursed.  Once again, it humbles me and makes me grateful for her willingness to share her milk with me!

After I take the girls back to their pasture, I come back to clean up.  (This is the first photo where you can see the dairy fly spray that I keep just inside the gate on the milking parlor floor.  Spraying Siobhan is one of the things I do after I tie her up, and she doesn't even flinch at the spray sound now.  I avoid the udder, though.)

Before I start to clean anything, I put the feed tub back in the feed box and put my bucket of milk safely up there where it can't get knocked over!

Then I sweep out everything dry like clumps of mud, hay, loose feed, etc.  The chickens congregate outside waiting for goodies.  Next I pour the soapy wash water over the stanchion, particularly where there's any dirt or pee.  Then I hose everything out good and sweep out the excess water.  The final step is to lime any manure, if there was any.

That's the routine--and we're ready to go again.  When the cows go to a pasture that's a bit farther away, the whole routine takes about an hour, including set-up, milking and cleaning up.  If they're closer and don't soil the milking parlor, I can get done in about 45 minutes.

You've just been invited to one of my favorite times of the day--milking my Dexter!

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