I have been milking cows by hand for about 12 years, and loving it. I was never even tempted to use a machine. It’s so much simpler to milk by hand. You can tie the cow up anywhere and milk her, and cleanup is so easy—just wash the bucket. However, our heifer Pansy changed my mind. When she calved in September, her teats were so small that milking became quite a chore. Try getting 8-10 liters (over 2 gallons) of milk out of a set of teats that are each the size of my thumb. That’s hard work! I managed, though, until Poppy calved in October. She’s easy to milk, with lovely, large teats, but the two cows together were giving 35-40 liters (9-10 gallons) of milk a day. My arms gave out! After just a few weeks of that, we decided it was not going to work. We solved the problem temporarily by letting Pansy feed the two heifer calves, and just milking Poppy. We also started getting set up so that we can milk with a machine! The first step was to level the floor in the shed. This is a carport that Simon built for his vintage Austin, but that has been moved to his house. He got a start on the floor before he got hurt, but then the project sat for a week or two. Then, a neighbor offered to help concrete the floor, and organized with the local concrete company to pour the floor the next day, a Saturday! Suddenly, preparations swung into high gear. It looked nearly impossible to be ready in time, but the job was finished that day!
Isn’t that a beautiful sight? I like it, anyway!We let the concrete cure for a week before using it for cows. During that week, Gayle and the boys built the stall and head catch. Now, the two cows are walked up to the house every morning and milking. Poppy never flinched, either at the cups going on her teats, or the noise of the vacuum pump. Pansy took a little longer to settle down, but she’s happy to be milked with the machine, too. And, it was none too soon for her. The calves were on her for just a month, but she has huge sores on three of her teats from them sucking. At this point, it’s impossible to milk her by hand, but she is all right with the machine. And, we’re overrun with milk again!
Mr. Diligence has done most of the milking so far. He can’t bring the cows up, because of his knee, so he milks and rinses everything down. He keeps the shed and equipment spotless!