Happy Independence Day from Hope Refuge Farm! My prayer is that we will not lose the freedom we have left to raise our own and provide our family, friends & neighbors with fresh, nutritious foods from our family homesteads. I enjoy being as independent as possible from the commercial food industry. Last week I had a mini celebration as I walked past the shelves of milk in the grocery store, giving thanks for my little red cow. Having our own fresh, raw milk and knowing it’s not tainted with pesticides, hormones or antibiotics has been wonderful. If you’re hoping to soon be milking your own family cow, here are some ideas on what you’ll need to get started.
First of all, you need a clean milking area, and believe me, it’s nice to milk somewhere that you have storage space for your equipment so you don’t have to carry it all out to the cow each day. I decided I wanted a nice, well-lit, easily cleaned parlor with work & storage area right there. It’s probably more than necessary if you just have one cow, but the last thing you want is dirt or soiled bedding getting flicked into your pail of milk.
I also wanted a sink & fridge handy so I could get milk chilled & filtered into containers quickly and clean up easily. This area has also been a very nice place for butchering chickens. With the floor drain, I can just hose the entire floor down so it’s nice and clean for milking. One wall holds a hose boom, shampoo sprayer & groomer for cleaning dirty udders…and giving cow-baths. The broom hangs ready in a handy spot.
Some cows keep their udder fairly clean, but some seem to have a bad habit of lying down in unfortunate places. And if you’re milking a cow, you really want her udder to be clean. A dirty udder also increases the risk of mastitis. One way to help keep your cow’s udder clean is to remove the hair from the udder. This is especially necessary with some Dexters who have quite long hair around their teats. You can do this with a small clippers or an udder singer. I just use my little horse clippers and it doesn’t take very long. It’s best done when her udder is full so the skin is fairly taut, but you still need to be careful to not nick her.
Now we need the cow in the parlor. Mine know that when they come in the parlor, they will be fed. This is about the only place they get processed feed, and it’s a treat they love, so they gladly go right in the stanchion & allow me to fasten the chain around their necks. I make sure there’s also enough hay in the trough to keep them contentedly munching if they finish the feed too soon. First, I’ll brush loose dirt & hair off the cow & her udder and wash off manure if necessary, then dry the udder with a clean towel. Finally, it’s important to clean the teats with disinfectant teat wipes, and your hands, too, if you’ll be hand-milking.
My Surge “belly-milker” hangs on a surcingle, right under the cow’s belly and is easy to use & clean. If you’ll be hand-milking into a pail, flip the handle to the side toward the cow’s front legs. I did have a cow get a hind toe caught on the pail handle (on the back leg side of the bucket) when she stepped front with her hind foot, and I barely managed to rescue the milk & pail from disaster.
Because I’m turning the cow out to be with her calf during the day, I don’t use a teat dip after milking. I also don’t milk her dry, so the hungry, little bugger will still have at least a little breakfast. When I’m done milking, the milker gets put straight into the fridge to start chilling while I tend to some other chores. Then the milk is poured through the filter into my “milk jug”.
After that, it’s time to thoroughly wash & disinfect all the equipment. I use ordinary dish soap to wash, then a bleach-water soak to kill any germs.
The Surge has it’s own special wall hangers, and a wall cabinet next to the sink serves as a clean spot to store other washed milking utensils. It’s also home to the box of filters & other items that I don’t want getting dirty.
After the long wait, “Chuck” is glad to get some breakfast!