… with R Local Cornwall, Connecticut ex-SPURTS at a Family Cow Workshop or contact us for a private lesson.
Milking cows is one of the most rewarding, peace-invoking things we’ve ever done and we like to share our experience. Since leaving the raw milk business and consistently milking only a few cows by hand, milking time has become MOOre relaxing and satisfying than ever. Often Margaret reads aloud as Debra milks. Sometimes, Dody stops in with a cup of hot coffee and with a few strong well-aimed squirts of milk, froths it up into her favorite “cow-a-chino.” Stephanie and Todd catch a bit of quality time every morning by milking their cow, Sylvia, together.
We recommend milking in a place where you feel comfortable, relaxed, and like to spend time. If you are calm and relaxed, both you and your cow will have an easier, enjoyable time. “Letting down” milk is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, so a cow needs to be relaxed to let down her milk. Begin by brushing your cow and then washing her udder with warm water and a gentle dish detergent.
To milk, make a tight ring with your thumb and first finger at the top of the teat. Then roll your other fingers down, squeezing as you go, pushing the milk down and out of the teat. Do NOT let milk flow backward up into the quarter. We liken it to squeezing a tube of toothpaste… starting at the back and keeping the pressure moving toward the opening.
A cow has four quarters, four glands, four teats and ONE udder”. The quarters are four completely separate mammary glands. So if one quarter is bruised or inflamed you can feed the milk from that quarter to your chickens or your pigs and still use the milk from the other three for yourself.
Another way of milking is to lubricate the cow’s teats with salve. Squeeze the teat firmly with your thumb against the base of your index finger and maintaining that pressure, slide your clamped thumb down the teat. Sometimes we’ll demonstrate using a milking machine. Because it only takes a few minutes, invariably someone asks, “wouldn’t it be easier to just have a machine?” We feel that once you get good at milking by hand it will take about twenty minutes to milk out your cow. It takes twenty minutes to wash the milking machine. We’d much rather spend twenty minutes of quality time with our cow than standing at the sink washing MOORE dishes!
For young Margaret’s detailed report on a past Family Cow workshop, including these milking tips as well as our ice cream recipe and directions for making simple cheese, visit the Motherhouse blog.
In 2009, Vicki Harkness of Perry Hill Farm shared her beautiful blogpost MOOsings on Early Morning Milking. Her cow, Brie-Anna is out of our Local Farm cow, Betsy.