Archive for February, 2013

Milking – Take Two

February 25, 2013

Well, it has been three and a half weeks now since Twinkles had her 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 usually it was much less than that and she always kicked like the blazes!  In the end we gave up – sadly – for us at least, Izzy was actually pretty happy about our failure!   Anyway, I thought I would write a blog post on the more positive milking experience that we have had with Twinks.

Just to give some history, we got Twinkles as a day old calf, she is half Friesian and half Hereford and we reared her on a bottle.  From the beginning we handled her a lot, getting her accustomed to being rubbed all over including her udder area and we halter trained her at a young age.  She has always had a placid temperament, never really showing much shyness or anything, unlike her brothers who tended to need a bit of personal space as they grew up.  As she grew older we put her to a Dexter bull, so that she would be sure to have a small calf for her first calving.  Over the six months or so before she calved, I got her accustomed to having me sit alongside her pretending to milk her into a steel bucket while she was eating her hay.  She didn’t like the sound of the bucket at first, but she quickly became used to it.  She has now had her first calf, a healthy little boy, at 2 years and 3 months of age.

Sam and I have been following the advice in Marja Fitzgerald’s book “The Healthy House Cow”, and started milking twice a day for the first few weeks.  The calf had full access to Twinks at the same time.  For the first few days we were following her around the paddock and trying to milk her where ever she was, but that got annoying pretty quickly as she wanted to follow the calf everywhere.  So after those first few days we put her halter on and tied her to a fence post for the duration of the milking.  She settled to that fairly promptly.  She is frightfully easy to catch, as we have her grain with us when we go down, and she loves her grain.  I catch her and tie her up, then give her the grain before Sam starts milking.  She gets her hay when the milking is finished.

Milking

At first she was engorged with milk, and I’m sure she found it rather uncomfortable to be milked.  As a result she fidgeted around and you could almost say she kicked a little, if you hadn’t experienced a real nasty kicker like Izzy!  Actually she had no intention to hurt us, but was just moving away from the discomfort.  Also she was fidgeting around a little because she was anxious to be with her calf.  In just a matter of days Twinkles, as is her way, had settled down to the routine and the engorging had reduced so she was less uncomfortable.  All signs of kicking had stopped.  It also helped that she was less anxious about the calf, who was pretty active by now.

MorningMilking2

Sam has done most of the milking.  He milks with one hand into a bowl, and is faster than me milking with two into the bucket.  He tips the bowl into the plastic bucket as he goes, which has the advantage that not all our milk could be knocked over or contaminated.

MilkingFromBehind

At first we were getting an average of about 3 litres of milk per day over our two milking sessions, but over the three weeks it reduced until, over the last few days, we were lucky to get half a litre.  We wanted to keep the calf with his mum all the time for the first few weeks, but at last the time came that we could lock him away overnight.  We put up our electromesh fence and coaxed the calf in, leaving Twinkles out.  Then, 12 hours later at 9am, we arrived down to milk.  I was actually a little anxious.  With over 2 years invested in our beautiful cow, it would have been pretty distressing if she could not produce enough milk for our family.  We go through 3 litres a day, so that was the lower limit that we were hoping she would give us.  Imagine our delight when we filtered and measured out our morning milking, and found it was just over 5 litres.  YAY!  We have had between 4.2 and 5.2 litres each morning this week, which is just great!  The calf seems to be managing just fine too on what he can drink during the day, although he is pretty hungry in the morning.  🙂

MilkBucket

We are feeding Twinkles as much meadow hay as she will eat, and have worked her up to 3 cups of crushed wheat twice a day, with her minerals in it each morning.  For a few days I put some crushed barley into the mix, for no reason other than that I thought variety might be good, but the milk developed a truly abominable tang so we quickly stopped feeding her that and thankfully the taste went away.  The pigs didn’t seem to mind the taste though!