Milking Mayhem

You may think us fools, but today we are celebrating over the HUGE achievement of getting about 100ml of REAL fresh cows milk.

milk

Let me tell you of our bumbling adventures along the way to such an astounding achievement.

The first step towards milking our cow was to make a milking stanchion with a head-bale in the front.  As usual we used our main research tool of the internet to see what other people were using then we came up with a plan, scrounged materials around the block and built our very own stanchion.

stanchion1

Isabelle didn’t actually think that much of our creation, but food is a huge motivator and with patience and perseverance we managed to get her into it.  As always you learn things along the way and the major design flaw of this is the lack of sideways cross bracing.  If we were to make another one then we would have some angle pieces out to the side I think.

Izzy was originally a house cow but has been simply a paddock cow for the last few years and is definitely not a cuddly girl.  She will come close for a carrot but shakes her head at you when you pat her.  I’m rather glad she doesn’t have her horns anymore.  Anyway, enough waffle!  Here we finally had the cow in the head bale and so we could get her used to being touched again.  Ha, ha, we were almost there.  Visions of fresh cream on scones danced before our eyes but my oh my it is surprising how a simple cow can make you feel such an amateur!  Izzy had no intention of giving up her lay back lifestyle that easily.  When we attempted to stroke her along the side, working our way down to the udder, we discovered first hand that a cow can kick.  And boy can they kick – forwards, backwards and sideways.  Very energetically too.

Hmm, we thought.  We would really like to keep our teeth if possible.  What to do?  Someone had a bright idea (me of course).  How about we get the cow used to being touched from a distance.  I dug out a nice soft wooly headed mop and we then endeavoured to get our cow used to being touched on her side, belly and udder from a safe distance.  It is a shame that I didn’t get a picture of that for posterity – or perhaps it is just as well that I didn’t.  Strangely enough after some initial vigourous kicking the old girl settled down and began to ignore the idiots massaging her side with a mop.  Elated by our seeming success we thought we might change sides and try some more.  Bad decision.  Isabelle decided that enough was enough and she really let fly, we thought she had kicked before but she showed us that she had actually been quite restrained.  In fact she was so annoyed that she got one of her back legs right over the top of the side bar of the stanchion.  While we undid the head bale to release her she jerked the side bar off the frame and left us contemplating that perhaps it had not been such a bright idea after all.  The mop has now been banished.  It would not be too strong to say that Isabelle hates it.  I left it lying outside the paddock for a day or so and she would leer at it over the fence.  🙂

So, back to the beginning, we fixed the stanchion, adding some palings up the side to ensure that legs could not get over the top again.  Then we had to win Isabelle’s confidence again.  Carrots helped with that.

stancion2

The trick was to not let her eat unless she was in the stanchion with her head through the head-bale.

stanchion3

Cows aren’t stupid either.  For quite a while she would have her head through the bale and be happily eating until she saw Sam put his hand up near the rope that pulls the head-bale closed.  Then she would back out again.  Sam decided to take a slower and gentler approach this time so for about a week he let her eat with her head through the bale without closing it on her.  She began to think that perhaps we were not so bad after all.

headbale1

More research on the internet about kicking cows got us considering a kickstop.  It is a piece of metal which hooks over the hip and under the flank and many people swear that they are the best thing out to avoid being kicked in the head by a grumpy cow.  They are adjustable and quite cheap so we decided to mail order one.

kickstop

While we waited for the kickstop to arrive we continued to get Izzy eating her tucker in the stanchion.  Sam started to lock up the head-bale while she was in there and she got quite used to that too.

headbale2

She even let us stoke her head and back a bit.

milking1

Carrots and grain must be worth it.

headbale3

The day finally arrived when our kickstop came in the mail.  Sadly it had absolutely no instructions about exactly how to put it on or how tight it should be or anything useful like that.  We resorted to the blog that had been recommending the kickstop’s use only to find it had disappeared.  Murphy’s Law!  Still, surely intelligent people can figure it out we thought, so we decided to just give it a go.  The poor long suffering cow was happily munching on her tucker while we fiddled around hooking the kickstop over her hip and clipping it up under her flank.  When we thought we had it about right we stood back to see if it looked tight enough.  Izzy looked around and gave a hearty kick which sent the kickstop arching through the air to land about 3 metres away on the grass.  Hmm, perhaps we did not have it tight enough.  The lure of our own homegrown milk drove us on – or perhaps it was the thought that this cow was eating heaps and contributing nothing, which was not the plan!  More faffing around followed, and once again we stood back to observe the result.  There was only one real way to see if we had it right.  Sam reached down towards the udder just as Izzy took a step forward.  Then she found that some fool had put a strange metal contraption on her side and with a buck and a kick she sent it clanging away again.  Sigh!

We stood back and looked at each other.  We really didn’t feel like trying again.  Flying metal bars seemed almost as dangerous as flying cow’s hooves!  Then it occurred to us that Isabelle had been standing quietly while we messed around hoisting this bar around her back legs so perhaps it was worth a try at just stroking her and reaching for the udder with our hands again.  And guess what – she was just fine.  🙂  We decided that that was enough excitement for one day and retired on a positive note.

The next day we put her in the stanchion and locked her head in the bale.  Sam stroked her down the side and once again was able to handle her udder without losing teeth.

milking2

He was even able to squeeze her teats and practice his milking technique.

milking3

Then, the following day, Sam was actually able to get milk.  There really was some in there!  You have no idea how thrilled we were.

milking4

Izzy has not completely changed her temperament.  She still kicks a bit, but on the whole she is better than she was.  Sam has been milking into an ice cream container and pouring that into his bucket.  It is quite a challenge to get the whole milking action happening well, but Sam seems to be getting better at it each day.

milking7

The next stage is to separate the cow and calf in the evenings.  Then instead of the small amounts of milk that we have been getting we hope to be able to get much more each morning.

milking6

Perhaps that vision of fresh home grown cream on scones may yet come true.  🙂

(For a more successful milking experience – see https://milkenunny.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/milking-take-two/)

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One Response to “Milking Mayhem”

  1. Milking – Take Two | The Milkenunny Blog Says:

    […] calf, and milking has well and truly begun.  Our last milking experience was with Isobelle (see https://milkenunny.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/milking-mayhem/) and the most milk we ever got in one session was 1 litre, and that was pretty exceptional as […]

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