Oct 28, 2019

What happened during the first month I owned a Dexter milk cow...

So, my first few weeks with my sweet Dexter milk cow "Clara" were nearly ideal.
Could it be that she was the perfect milk cow?
Could I really be this lucky?

I spent time with her in the pasture the first week just talking to her and letting her know that I wasn't a threat. She would come to me if I put a little sweet feed in her bucket. Even if she was clear across the pasture, she would walk over to me.
I felt so victorious and it was so short lived...

My husband built this wonderful stanchion for Clara. The prior owner told us she had never been milked without one and with her being so "head strong" and such, for safety sake it was a necessity. We studied a few pictures and designs online and decided on this stanchion design. My hubby is a general contractor, so I'm spoiled that he can build anything quickly. He whipped this monster out in an afternoon.

Total cost in materials =  $212.00

He elevated the deck of the stanchion because Clara's legs are so short, to elevate her up to make her easier to milk.

He even made it so you can pull a rope on the side and the head catch opens up. 
Pretty fancy~!

Right now it's just sitting in a corral close to the house. He can pick it up with his loader and move it into the barn anytime. Or, he left the tall pieces on the top so he could build a barn around it, or build a shelter around it, whatever he decides...

We have a lot of flexibility on our farm~

A few things you'll need if you're going to milk a cow;

This funnel from Amazon is fabulous. It's heavyweight. It fits perfectly in a wide mouth mason jar  and it hangs easy from a cup hook under a cupboard. Don't put your milk funnel on a dish towel to dry, hand dry it and hang it up. I'm not a fan of dishwashers, in fact I don't even own one, so for safety sake hand wash your funnel and hand dry it and hang it up between uses!

And I also ordered some Milk Filters
These filters do a great job. They don't fit in the above funnel perfectly, but if you fold them just right they'll work.
Let's be realistic, you need to filter your milk through something. I have a black cow. She has black cow hair, need I say more. Some people use a fine mesh, reusable coffee filter. I chose milk filters and I haven't regretted that choice. 

This is what my first milk filter looked like from milking into a milk bucket in a little breeze. Now, I milk into quart mason jars and there is hardly a speck on my milk filters.

When I filtered my milk for the first time I was concerned. My husband grew up milking cows on a small dairy. I asked him if I needed to throw the milk out because it got this dirty. He laughed at me and told me my cow needed a bikini trim.

This is the moment I decided I would milk into a mason jar and not a bucket until the stanchion was more protected from the breeze. I also got Clara into the stanchion the next morning and used a pair of pet trimmers to give this girl a haircut down there. She was like a hairy mammoth on that udder and it just had to be trimmed. She handled it perfect, not a problem at all.

This is how much hair came off my dexter cows udder the first time it was trimmed - yikes. Now you understand the black hair in the milk filter pic~!

If you decide you need to give your cow a trim, please tie one leg back so you don't get kicked~!
I'm kind of "Calamity Jen." I have horses and sheep and well, I just kind of go for it to see what happens, don't be like me...
~Safety First when your head is by their feet~

You'll also need something to store your milk in. I'm using Half Gallon Mason Jars with Wide Mouth Plastic Reusable Lids. I got mine at Walmart... Do you know that you can write on a mason jar with a black sharpie marker and it washes right off in the sink. Write the date on your jars of milk so the new ones go in the back behind the old ones.

You'll also need a Stainless Steel Milk Pail. Stainless steel is the most sanitary material to use for milking a cow. I bought this milk pail. It holds 4 quarts (1 gallon of milk) but with my little cow I've found it easier to milk into quart mason jars. And, where I'm milking in an outside stanchion, I find that a little breeze blows lots of unwanted leaves and such into a milk pail. A mason jar is way cleaner for me right now. I fill 2 quart jars every morning.

So, how I do this...

Late in the evening I pen Clara's calf in a pen where she can lay by him. She can put her head over the panels and lick him and smell him. She can see her calf all night, but he can't steal my milk!

At 9:30 a.m., I fill my 4 quart (1 gallon) milk pail with hot water and a squirt of Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Lavender Soap because this is how the prior owner did it and I've found that my Clara is a creature of habit and likes this scent. I tried something else and she balked at me. She let me know she was disgruntled. In fact, she smelled the rag and blew snot on me. Cows are really picky and the previous owner warned me about her little quirks...

I take 2 washcloths, one in my bucket to wash her udder and teats and the other washcloth to dry her udder and teasts. 

I also take 2, quart 'smallmouth' (so I can fit my hand around the rim) mason jars with lids to milk into, because it's cleaner right now where my stanchion is outside...

- When I arrive, I feed the steer calf a flake of hay and I open the gate to the back of Clara's stanchion, so she knows the milking parlor is open for business. 
- Then, I put a scoop of sweet feed in Clara's manger topped with one scoop of this Dairy Cow Mineral.

When I first got Clara her fur was in pretty rough shape. She was wirey and her hair was dull and her skin was dry. She had been stuck in a small corral with 3 other cows and well, it wasn't that she was bad taken care of, she's just really spoiled now. After a month of using this mineral, her coat is thick and soft and her winter hair is coming in and she is shiny. She doesn't like this mineral's taste, but she eats it last, after she's moved it all around to the bottom of her manger. This mineral was recommended to me by my vet to help get her fur in tip top shape before winter. Our local feed store has it in stock.

At this point, I walk over to fill the water trough and Clara goes up onto her stanchion. You can't be standing by the stanchion, or Clara will not enter it. 
She has her ways... 

Once she's on the stanchion she's really good about putting the head catch blocks down. I've seen some cows raise their heads fast and hit their owners, so I was really cautious about that in the beginning. Once the head catch is on I brush her down. At first, she wouldn't let me anywhere near her head without head butting me. Now she lets me brush her head, face, and her eyes. I use a soft brush and she enjoys the affection. 

Once she's brushed I wash her udder and teats. Once she's washed, I dry her off with a white washcloth so I know she's clean. 

Now, I strip each of her teats a few times onto her black hooves to clean them out and check for any lumps or stringiness. I've had no problems with her and with her calf on her still, he makes sure her udder gets stripped out when I'm done milking. The prior owner had no problems with her either in regards to infections like mastitis. She has a really nice bag for a little cow and I've read Dexter's are a pretty hardy breed of cattle.

Sounds perfect doesn't it, like Clara and I are living in milk cow bliss...

Well, the last month has been somewhat of a rodeo to get to this point, but I think we're finally over all of our hurdles unless she's got more tricks up her sleeve I'm unaware of at this point. If you're a new milk cow owner, don't get discouraged. It's never milk cow bliss in the begining.

Want to know the real truth about the first month with a new milk cow and all the things that can happen before you get to know each other? 

Stay tuned...

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