Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Milking Cows Part 2

I thought I'd talk a little about my milking regime. I've read different blogs about milking cows and so thought my "ways" might be of interest. I've heard people talk about share milking, which (I presume) is the term used when the calf remains on the cow. I can't imagine having a milking cow and doing it any differently. The alternative apparently is to remove the calf and bottle feed it. What a lot of extra work that would be! It's also not natural and certainly not the best thing for the calf or the cow.

I've been involved with milking a house cow my entire life. I remember waking up most mornings as a child, to the sound of the milk separator. That's the machine that separates the milk from the cream. My father grew up on a dairy in the days when the cows were hand milked. Therefore he naturally had a house cow when he left the family dairy and married my mother. I'm one of eight kids, so having our own cow would've been essential. We grew up with fresh milk, fresh cream and home made butter. I have so many fond memories based around fresh cream - thick and just delicious on anything!

So what do I do with my house cow? Well, I have several as I don't like to be without milk and I also like to separate the milk and eat cream and make butter and make yoghurt and cheese! And if there is a surplus I give it away to friends!

Fetta Cheese

I keep a very close eye on my cows just before they are due to calve. I will never forget one cow I had when I was very new to milking. She had calved and I didn't know for a week. By the time I got her into the yard it was almost too late to save her back two teats. She was so full of milk, the calf was only sucking the front two, which is often the case. I managed, with great difficulty to milk out the back two. They had gone hard and the milk was like water. How she didn't get sick from mastitis I don't know. So Lesson 1 - keep an eye on your cow BEFORE she calves and milk her out each day as the calf usually won't handle all the milk.

Once she has calved, it can take a week and sometimes even longer for the milk to clean up. This first milk is colostrum and is a yellowish colour. Sometimes, if the cow has a very large and full udder, the milk can be a bit bloody - this is fine. If it's nice and clean (without blood) I usually freeze some to keep for poddy calves or pigs. When you milk this out, feed it to the chooks or pigs or dogs.

Once the milk is no longer yellow coloured and it looks good enough to keep, you may need to start locking up the calf before milking. The cow I'm currently milking gives me more than 10 litres without locking the calf up, so I don't bother. Usually though, you won't get enough out of a cow while the calf is on 100% of the time. When you want to milk, take the calf away the night before (or morning if you plan to milk in the afternoon).This is called share milking.

When I'm milking and I have plenty of milk, I usually leave a quarter for the calf. If I want all the milk I take it all. The cow will make up some more milk throughout the day, so the calf will still get plenty. If the cow doesn't let her milk down for me, I let the calf out to suck for a minute or so until she lets her milk down, then I just push the calf off and back in the calf pen. For those that are confused about my terminology, "letting the milk down" is a term used when the milk comes more freely (anyone that has breastfed, will know what I mean!) Basically it can be hard work milking if they don't let it down, and when they do, it comes easily (sort of).

I also milk by hand. Some people new to milking use a machine. I've always been told that to use a milking machine you would need at least 4 cows to make the washing up worthwhile. I've never used a machine, but I think I would have to agree. I've been milking by hand for many years, and yes dust and insects etc get into the milk, but I have a good strainer to get it all out! I really enjoy the quiet time of sitting beside the cow and just doing it! I do have to watch for the odd kick, especially if there's sandflies or buffalo fly around. But most of the time, it's peaceful and I can just sit there and plan my day. I very rarely milk more than 4 cows and that would take me about an hour, so I'm not sure how much time a machine would take.

So, my summary:
1. Keep an eye on the cow before she calves to make sure you get her in and milk her out immediately (the second day at the absolute latest!) This will help to prevent mastitis and milk fever.
2. Lock up the calf each night/or day so that you get plenty of milk.
3. If the cow doesn't let her milk down, allow the calf to suck for a minute or so first - and then put the calf away.
4. Leave a quarter for the calf if you don't need the mild. If your need is greater, the calf will be fine as the cow will compensate.
5. Feed the cow a little extra when locking up the calf and then while milking as this will ensure she keeps in good condition. A dairy cow will give EVERYTHING  to the calf and will get poor!
6. Enjoy the milk fresh, in yoghurt, cream, butter, cheese, custard!!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Milking Cows and Raw Milk

A little while ago I had to buy milk! This was probably the first time in about 6 years! I absolutely hate having to buy it, especially as that meant that I had to buy yoghurt and my supply of feta cheese ran out so it was devastating! Mind you I only had about a month of this, but it was enough to make me realise how lucky I am to be able to milk my own cows. I know exactly how my cows are being treated and what they eat. I also have the benefit of being able to drink raw milk – as much as I want. Milk is my go to energy drink when I’m mid way through the afternoon and need a thirst quenching pick-me-up! Fresh raw milk is an amazing product. It’s so full of goodness and just tastes so good – so much better than anything you can buy in the shops.
I’m now milking two cows, giving me about 12 litres in a milking. I’ve got about 3 more due to calve, so not sure what I’ll do then. I’d really like to make some hard cheeses, unfortunately they do take a lot of time, but I just need to set aside some time to do it, because it’s so satisfying making your own dairy products. I make feta cheese all the time, and yoghurt weekly. The feta I make is a raw milk soft and creamy style. I cut it and put it into jars with herbs and macadamia oil (from the Yeppoon Markets). I also use this cheese to make dips instead of using the philly cream cheese. It’s not quite as creamy, but is still pretty good.  If I put it in a salt brine and let it sit for a bit, it becomes more like the crumbly Greek style feta. Either way I make it, it’s pretty good!

I make about 2-3 litres of milk into yoghurt each week. Some of this I keep natural and the rest I mix with honey (from the markets) and some vanilla essence. I like it slightly sweetened – for my muesli for breakfast. For the yoghurt I “sort of” pasteurise the milk as it’s necessary to kill the bugs naturally present in milk to allow the ABC cultures in the yoghurt to grow properly. They are not as strong and can’t compete with the raw milk bugs! When I say sort of, I don’t like to boil the milk, just bring it to 80 degrees and then let it cool.
I would love to be able to make these products to sell, but unfortunately we have a stupid law in Australia that says that we aren’t allowed to! Ummm..... doesn’t make sense that the same law makers allow fast food joints and smoking....what causes more harm I wonder! Not to mention soft drinks and other rubbish! We are allowed to consume it ourselves and I think we are allowed to give it away. I read something somewhere about a bloke who was giving the milk away, but he was also selling post cards. The post cards were obviously a collector’s item, as they were expensive! You can buy milk for cosmetic purposes, which is great, because it is good for the skin!

One day I would like to start a small dairy – maybe to make cosmetic products, and cheese!
What are your thoughts on raw milk? Have you tried it and/or would you try it if given the opportunity?

For those who are interested, I will post about my milkers and the way I do it...probably of more interest to those that have or are thinking of getting a milking cow!