Is what the cow says. On Saturday I had the opportunity to learn how to milk a cow and a goat. It was actually a class that covered all things home dairy. A nearby farm, Firesign Family Farm, offers classes on all sorts of self-sufficiency/homestead/farm type things. We talked about fencing requirements for both goats and cows. We also talked about pasture and food requirements, handling, milking stations, routine, and health care. There were twelve of us, including a friend of mine who I was able to to convince to join me, in the class and anyone who wanted was able to trim the goat’s hooves and milk bot a goat and cow.
The cows waiting to come in for milking
Going into the class I was very interested in goat milking. With goats being smaller and more manageable, I thought, and also producing far less milk I wanted to know if that would be an option that would ever appeal to me. One thing that should be obvious about goats, and I guess I had never really thought about, was that their udders are much smaller than a cows. Stands to reason that a smaller animal would have smaller udders, but if you don’t think about milking much, it’s not something you ruminate on. While I didn’t have any problem milking the goats, I pretty much used only my thumb and first finger. Not a big deal. We then got to taste both fresh warm and cold goat’s milk. I had never had goat’s milk before but had heard about how “gamey” it tastes. I was surprised that it didn’t taste that much different than cow’s milk. There was a slight difference, but nothing off putting at all.
Then we moved on to her jersey cow. There is something about cows. Maybe it was watching city slickers when I was young and growing attached to Norman, but those big brown eyes just get to you. I knew as soon as we brought the cows in, if I was going to be milking something it would have to be a cow. As I said, they milk Jersey cows at Firesign. They can supply up to six gallons of milk a day! Even if you share half with the calf that’s still three gallons a day. That is a lot of milk drinking, cheese making, ice cream making, etc. and I am not interested in starting a herd share program at this point so that was something to think about.
Seriously, how can you not like cows?
Filtering the milk
Milking the cow seemed easier. I don’t know if it was the size of the udders, or my attitude about the animal, but it was a lot of fun. We then got to try fresh warm milk, and cold which we drink as a family anyway.
The class was great. Ruth was a lot of fun, and a fount of information. I will definitely be going back for more classes which are listed here.
Upon getting home I started doing some research on a cow breed that I have looked up before, the Dexter. Dexter cows are a much smaller breed, and thus produce less milk. More along the lines of one to three gallons a day. Splitting that with a calf now sounds more reasonable. Dexter are also considered a triple threat cattle breed. Not only do they provide milk, but they are a good meat breed as well. The third threat is that they can be draft animals. All I can think about now is how awesome it would be to have a fall party hay ride on a wagon pulled by Dexter cows.
This gives me one more thing to think about. It would be really fun to be able to produce our own milk and cheese from right here on the homestead. I know milking is a chore, but with only one to milk it may be manageable. I have also heard about leaving the calf and heifer together if you want to go on vacation so the calf takes care of the milking while you are on vacation. It isn’t anything I am going to do this winter, unless I run into a smoking deal, but something to think about for the future.