I’ve been milking Ellie for almost a month now, just in the mornings, and letting her calf (Cranberry) have the rest. Ellie is a gentle girl, and I milk her in the field tethered with about 8-10 feet of rope. She’s never kicked at me. I give her a bit of grain and start in milking. She moves around some once her grain is gone, but stands reasonably well for me. I separate Cranberry and let her nurse in the morning when I’m done and in the evening she gets everything.
My first day I got a cup. The next (almost) two weeks I only could get a pint. After some helpful advice from some people who’ve “been there,” I’ve been getting about a quart for the last week. Ellie, for all her good traits, is also a good mama and doesn’t want me to get much of the milk that should be her for her baby. So she “holds up” on me. I work my little hands as hard as I can to get a bit of milk (the 2 cups). I knew she was capable of “holding up” because there were times I could barely get a drop working as hard as I could, and she had not had access to her calf for over 12 hours. I was informed, though, that she was probably STILL holding up, even though I was getting some milk. The suggestion was to let the calf “start” her for me for a few minutes so she would “let down”. Then wash her up and milk until it was too difficult again, let the calf on again, and repeat. Lo and behold, It was 100 times easier to milk her after Cranberry got her “started” for me! So since then I’ve been working to get my hands/wrists/arms to cooperate so I can milk more.
I broke the “quart barrier” a couple of days ago (Just a bit too much to fit in a quart jar when I put it away). I haven’t made it for the last 2 days, but this morning I hit a new record. I’m now up to almost a quart and a pint! Woohoo! If I’d get at it and freeze a bunch of ice, we could make some fresh milk ice cream to celebrate!
My hands/arms are getting a bit longer lived now, despite my bad wrists. I’m a little more productive when I milk thanks to the easier milking from letting the calf start and the rest time while the calf nurses. I tried a new strategy this morning that helped me get that extra (almost) pint. I only gave her a bit of grain to start with, and held some back so that each of the 3 times I had my “turn”, she had some grain to eat again and would stand better for me. Maybe I’ll finally get a makeshift stanchion made soon so that she can’t move around as much on me.
I’m hoping to get to a solid 2 quarts every morning. That’s my goal to hit in the next few weeks. By the time I’m ready to wean Cranberry, maybe I’ll actually be able to milk enough to provide all the milk we use at our house! And when Cranberry’s not getting all that rich cream, maybe some fresh churned butter. Mmmmm. I’ll have to bake some bread. Then try some cheese and maybe some yogurt.
Until then…. I’ll keep dreaming of a milking machine!