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.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Different Perspective on Milking My Dexter

A Photo Essay 
Starring Siobhan and Introducing Macree
Photos by Jennifer Lea
Captions by Susan Lea
Milking Demonstration by Jean-Marc Wallimann & Susan Lea

Back at Thanksgiving, Jean-Marc helped me milk one morning, and Jenny documented the whole process.  She applied her photographer's eye to catch the entire experience from each of our perspectives.  She captured not just Jean-Marc and me as we milked, but also the viewpoints of Siobhan, and her heifer, Macree, as well as a unique birds-eye view that would never in a million years have occurred to me.  Siobhan seemed completely unfazed by having two people milking her while a third clambered around her head and over her back and poked a camera into her most intimate functions as a mother and family milk cow!  With all the busy-ness of the holidays, I was slow to get around to doing this post, but Jenny's photos are so great I just have to share them.  You may never set foot on a farm, but I think that after seeing this photo essay you'll feel you were right there with us.  The only thing you can't experience is a glass of ice cold milk back at the house!

Milking starts with setting up feed for Siobhan and Macree.

Siobhan hears the clang of the feed bin and heads my way.

"Hurry up, Mommy!  I'm hungry!"

I halter Siobhan and tie her to a post.

She thinks about her feed and starts to drool.

This makes her have to pee and poop, which is much better done in the barnyard than in the stanchion!

I bring Macree out of her stall where she's been shut up overnight.

Macree is hungry, too, and helps with a "let down" nursing
so Siobhan "releases" her milk from the udder, available for milking.

Siobhan is seriously thinking about that feed waiting for her.
"Let's get this show on the road!"

Macree goes readily to her feed tub beside the stanchion, and I tie her up.

Siobhan goes right into the stanchion and starts eating.
"Now that's more like it!"

My bucket of hot soapy water is standing ready.  See this post.
I use a clean cloth to wash Siobhan's udder.  See post above.

Siobhan's udder is washed, dried and the teats have been cleaned with
disposable teat wipes.

I apply Bag Balm to my fingertips and smear it onto the udder and teats.  Dry hands and dry teats translate to painfully pulled skin for Siobhan.
I express milk from each teat onto the floor to make sure there's no lumpy,
clotty milk which would indicate mastitits.  This milk is good to go!

I start with two hands straight into the bucket.  Look at the spray!

When the less-productive front quarter is empty, I switch to a hand-held cup.
This way, if Siobhan moves a leg suddenly, I don't have to cry over spilt milk.
I grasp the teat firmly between my thumb & forefinger . . .

. . . roll my other fingers down and squeeze, and the milk squirts into the cup.

Jean-Marc caught on quickly. 

Milk spray sparkles in the sunlight.

Not every cow will let two people milk at the same time!

Like her mama, when Siobhan finishes her grain, she picks up her tub and
tosses it!  Jenny kept putting the tub back and making Siobhan toss it again
until Jenny got the perfect shot!

This is what milking looks like from Siobhan's perspective.

And this is what it looks like at the business end of things.
Jean-Marc found the "stripping" technique worked best for short teats and
long fingers, definitely helped along by Bag Balm.

"My feed is gone.  I want some more milk!"

Macree zooms in for a second "let-down" nursing. 
Macree switches from teat to teat and butts the udder with her head until Siobhan lets down more milk.  "Yum!"
Don't worry--I'm going to wash it again!

A slobbery milk face means there's more milk ready for Jean-Marc and me.
It also means a slobbery udder that needs to be washed again!
No more slobber.

Now it's clean and dry . . .

. . . and cleaned with teat wipes again.

We got over 2 more cups after the second let-down nursing.

When we finished, I let Macree out first, then Siobhan.
She always grabs one last mouthful of hay, "one for the road." 

Siobhan doesn't get a kiss every day, but she earned one today, sweet thing!

We shoo Siobhan away until I can get her empty feed tub, put it in the barnyard and dump in the soaked alfalfa cubes.  She tends not to poop in the stanchion now that she gets her alfalfa after milking is done.

No job is over until clean up is done.  Today was a "neat" day so all I have to do is sweep, pour the used wash water over the milk on the stanchion, and sweep the water out.  Then everything is clean and ready to go tomorrow.



  1. Great technique and wonderful shots

    1. Thanks, Gene, I'll make sure my photographer hears! :)

  2. Replies
    1. You're welcome, Teresa. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. Very nice! I got a milk cow this summer and really love her. I have to report that our techniques are really very similar so I feel pretty good about what I am doing. I never thought about putting bag balm on before I milk though. I put it on very heavily afterward and keep the calf away for about 20 minutes to allow it to soak in. Last week when we had crazy cold temps I let the calf take care of the milking for a few days and boy were her teats chapped! A couple days with the bag balm and things are back to normal. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Down Home Farms! I'm not sure what kind of cow you have or if Siobhan's udder is typical for Dexters, but as you can see in the close-ups, hers is pretty leathery! I haven't seen her teats get chapped, even with the calf nursing during the freeze, but the skin gets dry. I've noticed this winter that even with putting Bag Balm on before I milk, between my own skin and her skin it all gets soaked up and I have to add more! Our lawn care guy grew up on a dairy farm milking lots of cows. He's the one that gave me the hint about putting on Bag Balm before I start.

  4. Absolutely love your posts and the pictures! I don't milk any of my cows but have been considering it. Not sure how it would work out since I still work full-time. One of these days though.... :)

    1. Thank you, Fran, and thanks for taking the time to comment! I'm sure you will love milking if you find a way to work it in to your schedule. Calf-sharing is such a great thing because you can milk as often or as seldom as you want. In fact, depending on your work schedule, you could separate them before you leave in the morning and milk when you get home. Nothing says you have to milk in the morning. Cows are so adaptable and forgiving!

    2. Good tip on the calf sharing. That's what I do. I try to milk about 5 days a week and on the days that I can't, Buttercup (I know, I know!!) is there. She and Heidi are Guernseys and the milk share has been working great. I do milk in the morning but my time varies by a couple hours (I like to sleep in on the weekends) and its never a problem. I guess I'm lucky that Heidi isn't a huge producer, but she's even tempered and we get all we need. My name is Jen, by the way!

    3. Thanks, Jen! I also like to sleep late--every day! Not just on the weekends. :) But since my husband usually shuts up the chickens, takes our LGD out to the barnyard, and puts the cow up in a stall about 9:30 pm, it's perfect if I amble out there about 10 am.

      Having a Guernsey, I can imagine you get plenty of milk! They are such gorgeous cows, too. It doesn't hurt that they're nice to look at. ;) I actually think Buttercup is a perfect name for a Guernsey. It might not make much sense for a black Dexter like mine, but it would be great for a dun one. There may be a lot of cows named Buttercup running around, but only one that's yours! So she might as well have a name you like.


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