Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adventures in milking

As I mentioned in my last post, I am really getting sick and tired of Max, the calf, not taking more of Bonnie's milk.  I took it upon myself when he was nursing to get on the other side of the cow so he wasn't bothered by my presence, peek under her belly, and watch him nurse.  At one point I reached across under the cow and hid his favorite teat, a front one.  He keeps that one very well emptied, and only takes a little from the back quarters.  If I took away the front teat, he would move on to the back one on that side; however, I could tell that his nostrils were blocked by Bonnie's capacious udder when he was partaking of that back teat, making it a little difficult for him to breathe.  Not impossible, just slightly difficult.  So he's been choosing the easy route.
Hmmm; what to do, what to do.  
Since I've been having to milk every morning anyhow, I decided to put Max in the stall overnight.  That way I can milk from the cow's right side and he can have what's on her left.  I've done this with Bonnie's previous calves when I needed milk.  This plan, I thought, would help Stupid Max come to a realization that the milk in the back is every bit as good as the milk in the front, and maybe he'll soon become an equal opportunity sucker.  
I awoke this morning to a bovine chorus which, loosely translated, is this:  "Mommy, I'm dying of starvation!"  "My baby, my baby, I want to feed you and I can't get in there with you!"  All this repeated ad nauseam, resonating clearly through my open bedroom window.  
I got out of bed, quickly drank a cup of coffee, grabbed my bucket, and went to the barn.  
It was no trick getting Bonnie in the barn and in her stanchion; after all, there's food there.  Once I had her secured I went out and slid the stall door open, turning Max loose.  Now all he had to do was take two or three steps, see his mother through the open door of the barn, join her, and latch on.  
He did step through once, but promptly left, bawling his head off.
This made Bonnie nervous, and she stomped around some and mooed an answer to her baby.  He answered back, but didn't come near the open door.  
When a cow gets nervous, she poops and pees.  A lot, and often.  So there I was snatching my bucket up and dodging excrement and urine every minute or so, pitchforking out the manure so I didn't have to have my bare feet in it as I milked, and resuming the milking procedure when the coast seemed clear.  A couple of times I set the bucket on a stool and went out to try and guide the calf into the barn with his mother, to no avail.  Finally, when I was almost done milking the two teats on my side, Max entered and I shut the door so he couldn't leave.  And at long last, he discovered the breakfast bar.  
I noticed that when he's really hungry, he doesn't care which teat he sucks on.  
I'll repeat this whole procedure every morning until Max starts emptying the cow's udder on his own.  I plan to make cheese with the two gallons of milk I brought in today.  Last time I attempted making cheddar cheese, it turned out to be crumbly, similar to feta cheese.  It's delicious, and we're using it in salads.  I hope my efforts this time actually produce something like cheddar, but I won't be unhappy with more feta-type cheese.  
Oh , due to the fact that I was outside before daylight, I heard something I had not heard in ages:  Coyotes were howling!  In the old days when I milked several cows and bottle-fed calves twice a day, I often did the chores in the predawn hours, and most mornings I'd hear coyotes yipping and howling.  I had forgotten how they raise cain when they hear a train whistle.


I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

We hear those coyotes when I'm at the camper too. I guess they are everywhere. They do make a terrible racket. Hopefully very soon Max will take all the milk so you can travel before it gets too cold out. Already the nights have been very cool here. August used to be out hottest month but no so this year. Hope your Tuesday is a terrific one!


Dodging excretement and urine first thing in the morning makes you a better woman than I. Max needs to get with the program, for your sake, Bonnie's sake, etc. Sounds like you're doing everything you can to get him there. Coyotes FRIGHTEN me, period.

darev2005 said...

I wonder why people always refer to farm living as "the simple life"? It sounds to me like you have to get up too early and work alot harder for your cheese than I do here in the 'burbs. And the only critters that stomp on my feet here are my dogs.

Donna said...

Darev, the reason there's a problem with the calf taking all the milk is this: dairy cows give enough milk for four calves and were never meant to run free with their babies. Unfortunately, I love Jerseys and they are dairy cows. I don't want to be tied down, so I let the calf gradually take more milk until he can take it all. This hasn't presented a problem before, but this year it is messing up my schedule!

Vicki said...

Maybe Max knows whats in the freezer and he doesn't want to get plump. Vicki

Anonymous said...

Donna, one thing I hate is milking cows. When Fleta and I were about 11 (I) and 13 (she) we had to milk cows before school in the morning. Our Dad had a nervous breakdown brought on by having cows he could not pay for. We milked about 20 Holsteins and 2 Jersies and maybe a Brown Swiss or two and still caught a bus to go to school everyday. It was my idea of what HELL would be like. I was sleepy and only a slight girl and I vowed when I grew up I would not milk cows. Since, I left home I have not milked a cow...but I bet I still could handle the job. We use electric milkers.

After Dad came home he sold the herd and they did not pay off the mortgage on the cattle so he went to Table Rock Dam and got a job building the Dam. We still had to milk the two cows he kept for our use. Fleta milked in the morning and I in the evening as I could nto get up and around in the morning to get the chore down and catch the bus. I still hated having to milk even the two cows.

We also bottle fed calves. We would not even get in the pen, just hole the bottle through the fence or seems like mostly we used a bucket with a nipple on it. Have you ever used those? For the calves it seems that we mixed up a powder milk for them? Maybe I am dreaming. My sister will tell you have I have forgotten a lot of my childhood that they speak about with joy. I remember a lot of drudgery. We even had to carry the water we used in the house from a spring quite a distance from our house. The spring was in a dark snaky cave!

Patsy was grown and married when Fleta was 13, me 11, and Helen a little girl. We had a sister with downs Syn. and Helen was just a little older than this little sister. Daddy really spoiled Helen and she was quite a brat when Fleta and I were young. Doubt she will read this and know I spelled the beans about her being spoiled rotten while Flet and I worked like slaves! teehee

Feel sorry for you for having to go into the dark morn and pull milk from teats!

Anonymous said...

Donna, I can read the blogs at school and we use google so when you see school time...I am on my break at work! Sister 3

madcobug said...

I hope those critters don't bother your calves. Hopefully Max will soon get with the program. Helen