Hand Milking… the first milk


Niki hand milking

Niki, our current intern, wanted to try milking Chocolate.  I wanted to make sure each quarter of Cho’s udder was functioning properly.  The calf had nursed, but it was important to make sure each teat was open and that each part of the udder could empty. If not, it could be a perfect setup for mastitis, infection of the udder.

An udder is divided into four segments, each with a teat.  The first milk, after delivery, is the colostrum which has many health benefits for the new calf.  But the mom produces much more milk than the calf will be able to drink… so we will take some for possible future use.

We didn’t want to separate mom & calf by taking Cho into the milking trailer so Jim just put a halter on her and tied it to the feed stall.  The problem with that… she had much more room to move around.  Cho had not been milked in a year so was not too pleased with the change.  Jim hobbled her back leg so she could not kick.

unable to kick

Preventing any real kicks@

When a fresh cow is milked initially, it will trigger contractions (painful)… so again, she’s not too happy about being milked BUT, very important to make sure each quarter of the udder is working properly.

It’s a good thing the hobble is in place ’cause she does try to kick! She dances around the stall area and Niki has to be quick and observant on what Chocolate is doing. When you lean up against a cow, to milk, you can actually feel when she is getting ready to kick… you grab the bucket and tilt back… she has a very specific range that she can kick into. Once in the milking stall we will have more control, but we’ll wait a few weeks before we start to take milk.

Hand milking is quite an art… as well as requiring some good hand endurance.  You don’t need a lot of strength, but you do need to be able to keep up the motion for a while.  Our other Jersey, Bessie, does NOT like to be hand milked.  She thinks we take way too long!

milking the front quarter of the udder

Enlarged teat... hand milking

Milking is not just clenching a fist around the teat, but a rolling motion. You actually close off the top of the teat (so the milk will not squirt back up into the udder), and then squeeze down, from top to bottom, to move the milk out.  It’s a rolling motion, top to bottom. Once you have enough hand endurance/strength you can get a nice rhythm going.

Hand milking should be done in 20 minutes at the most. It only takes about 10 min to do the job with a small portable milking machine, but it takes me longer to CLEAN my automatic milker , then hand milking takes!  The challenge is to build up the hand endurance.

We check each quarter of the udder, and get a good flow of milk from each. Collect about a quart of colostrum, for freezing. And then let Chocolate go nuzzle her calf, who has not budged from his napping spot.

calf, mother cow

Checking on her calf

How to tell when it “time” to calve…

Yesterday I was saying that Chocolate is close to dropping her calf (i.e. birthing)… so a few other hints that it is getting close.  Her udder (bag) has filled out! She doesn’t have the huge bag of a standard Jersey, or the ground dragging bags of Holsteins. So when you notice her udder… it means something is going on, as well as when the teats lengthen and start to look full.

The temps dropped to the high 20’s last night… so glad our cows tend to deliver in the daytime when the temps have warmed up.  Chocolate’s udder looks fuller today, and the teats are beginning to angle OUT (the better for a newborn calf to find). And even better some of the teats are beginning to show drops of milk… dripping out.

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When the calf is born, and starts looking for a teat, it is so funny to see.  The teats will just be streaming milk.

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