Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Sustainable Living and Land use › Sustainable Homestead › "Milking the Cow Correctly"
- October 15, 2015 at 10:18 pm #86273
Anyone with milking experience read this article in the latest “Spring” (my heart goes out to you Lynn) issue of SFJ?
The technique of getting all the milk out of the udder seems to make a certain amount of sense as I sort of follow it but I cannot quite follow the description of the technique.
Anyone familiar with this?
MarkOctober 16, 2015 at 7:39 pm #86276JaredWoodcockParticipant
We “share milk” with the calf where he gets to nurse during the day and then is separated at night and use a bucket milker. If I dont bump and massage the udder a lot like the arrticle describes I wont get any cream because the cow holds it back for the calf. Before I figured this out we had a few jars of skim milk raw right out of the cow. I just try to mimic what the calf does when he is nursing. I will try the technique in the article and see if it is any different.October 16, 2015 at 8:13 pm #86277dlskidmoreParticipant
We only ever milk our sheep if something happens to a lamb. If they get overly full we milk them out to reduce risk of mastitis, so stripping them completely is essential. Bumping and massaging definitely help. Look at how the lamb bumps his mother before he feeds. Do calves do the same?October 18, 2015 at 2:10 pm #86281Carl RussellModerator
I had to go back and find the article in order to see what you were referring to. I skipped right over it, as I tend to resist technical articles trying to enlighten me to the “correct” way to do anything.
As I suspected, and I know that judging an unread book and all, but, it was a little tone deaf, expressing how amazing the author’s perspective was. I know that was partly because of the times, but milking cows is another craft that has many subtleties.
Par for the times, the article is heavily laden toward the ultimate financial return, so many natural variations and oddities are suggested to be inadequacies. Similarly, the idea that measures should be taken to get the highest return, production, and utilization are emphasized.
I have been milking cows by hand for 30 years. I grew up milking cows and doing barn chores in an 18 cow dairy. One of my early mentors told me, “You can get a lot of life from a cow”…. So calves, grassland management, nutrient cycling, and meat contribute to the farmstead in ways that milking efficiency cannot compensate for.
I have milked cows with crooked tits and sagging uddders for lactation after lactation. I have milked cystic cows that wouldn’t breed back for close to 1000 days, and caught the heat that produced a heifer calf with our original farm bloodlines. I have milked cows into their mid teens. I have milked cows once a day giving 3 gallons, and I have never found myself looking for an extra 15%.
All of this is to say that of course you don’t want to irritate the cow through faulty practices, and you do want to get as much milk as necessary to prevent mastitis, but within that there is a lot of room to move. I have never bunted the udder, not taken the time to squeeze the udders as he describes, but I do hold the teat with a whole hand reaching up into the udder, as well as massaging the sides of the udder to ensure that the milk that is let down is gathered. I also will strip with the thumb and forefinger if need be.
My sense of his description was more to establish standardized procedures that could be adopted by a farm looking to overcome the untrained workforce. Many folks who have milked their own cows for many years will develop a sense of craft, but during the time of that article, the industry was experiencing the growth of the owner/manager farm where labor force was being employed to allow operations to expand. It seemed like a technical undertaking to give direction to the farm manager.
What little increase these specific practices might yield for me is restricted by the fact that we don’t feed to produce milk anyway. A healthy cow produces more than we can market and use, given the other “life” she provides, I can’t see that he sheds any new light on the subject for me.
CarlOctober 18, 2015 at 6:12 pm #86282
Interesting especially the historical context. My sense after reading was more of a focus on getting the high cream content milk that is at the end of the milking, particularly when the cow is holding back. This is based on info I have seen in several places, and repeated in this article, that the cream percentage increases as the milking progresses. I expect this might be more of an issue in a “sharing with the calf” situation such as I practice when I milk. She might be more motivated to hold back if she knows the calf is waiting. (Calf has free access during the day, is separated at night and I milk in the morning.)
I am not looking for every last drop but wouldn’t mind upping my cream percentage a bit.
“massaging the sides of the udder”. When do you do this? and is it sort of a gentle kneading?
MarkOctober 18, 2015 at 9:56 pm #86283Crabapple FarmParticipant
Cream content can absolutely be affected by milking technique. My wife does most of the milkings here these days, but we’ve shared milking duties over the years and some years had apprentices in the rotation. And some times we’ve noticed a pattern in the cream lines in the jars in the fridge, with one person getting consistently more cream than another. I think part of that is who the cow likes more – she won’t let down as much cream for a new face. But the other part is technique.
Like Carl, we typically have more milk than we need since we aren’t milking for sale, just for ourselves. But we definitely have a preference for rich milk.
This can be a problem with “sharing with the calf” and is why, when we can, we like to foster out the calf to another nurse cow.
I would say that the first “massaging of the udder” for us is incorporated into the pre-milking wash routine, and I think that having a wash routine that stimulates the udder is a great aid to let-down. We usually milk two quarters mostly out – not ’til the last drop, just until the flow noticeably slows, then switch to the other two, then go back to the first ones, then finish off the last. This gives a chance for the quarters to let down more fully, rather than trying to milk out completely in one go. If we notice that the cow doesn’t seem to be letting down completely, then we will massage some to encourage a more complete let down.
We pour some off for the barn cats early – they don’t need the cream.
-TevisOctober 19, 2015 at 5:14 am #86284Carl RussellModerator
We also pre wash and massage, and I share Tevis’ appraisal of that.
I will often take my left hand and reach up on the quarter while milking with the right, near the end of let-down, and massage and stroke downward to ensure I have good milk flow.
I have always milked Jerseys and had 5-6% milk….commonally 3-4″ of cream on a gallon jar, without any particular methodology other than described above. I think it is also related to the vigorous approach to the teat. If one just squeezes milk from the teat, I think the result is different than if one quickly releases and presses back up into the quarter to grab another handful. This is possibly a simulation of calf action.
I will say though for cream saving and calf raising, I gave up the practice of letting the mother feed the calf. We divvy out milk from each milking to bottle feed the calves. As much as I value the natural advantage of direct feeding for health and socialization, I also value my own relationship with both mother and calf.
I have found over the years that calves fed on their mothers are not as easy to handle as they mature, and mothers who feed their calves also have an allegiance to the calf over me. In the long run, I find it very little time savings, and have much higher return in well mannered and easy milking animals.
Just to add to the discussion, I prefer to milk diagonally. This is partly because I am usually milking the older cows with large sagging udders. We use a sauce pan for one, as we can no longer fit a milk pail under there. That means I have to lean way over, and reach under to reach the off side, so I milk left rear and front right first. Once pressure is released on the left rear, I can actually reach the right rear quarter. I have never measured any of my methods to know, but I have found regular success, and have often felt that the cross stimulation positively contributed.
CarlOctober 19, 2015 at 8:32 am #86285Livewater FarmParticipant
I have also milked cows for years never hadd problems geting a cow to let milk down in fact I have cows that start to drip as soon as they hear a milker running also it is far worse to over milk a cow than to under milk teat irritaion and all
BillOctober 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm #86287dlskidmoreParticipant
Harder to overmilk by hand. Quality of the vacuum pulse modulation and auto shutoff with machines matter.October 19, 2015 at 7:02 pm #86288
Interesting thread with good info and examples.
It makes me realize that my situation is my situation, at least a little and maybe a lot different from others. Therefore my expectations of what I can expect from my stock and myself will be different as well. Of course.
I let the cow mother the calf because it works in my setup where I don’t need much milk and need the flexibility of not having to milk. That said, it will be interesting to see if I can get a little more cream by adjusting my technique a bit from what I have learned here.
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