Introduction

This chapter is dedicated to the discriminating woman who would rather own . .. a cow or a goat!

September 1993. Almost done with the ninth edition. I am amazed at the sophisticated and widespread knowledge that exists these days among home-dairying people. Once, perhaps, I had a lot to offer here. I'm not so sure any more, but I've done my best to catch up on things and to update this section while staying within my time and space limitations. There are so many good books written about this area, so many opportunities for education and self-education, and so many dedicated dairy extension agents with information to offer. This chapter can now be thought of only as a place to begin. (Actually, the same can be said of every chapter in this book.) My hope is that I can J&Vi still be of use—by providing a "

little information on just about everything and leads about where to find more.

Marietta, the shorthorn cow, got mastitis Christmas Eve. So from then until now [April 1974], we had no milking cow. We finally squeezed out enough money—$350—to buy a Jersey carrying her third calf, due to calve in August. She was number 108.1 had a notion I'd go out and milk her for the first time and tell about the experience for the introduction of this chapter. I figured it would really be rapturous and poetical.

Well, that morning I couldn't get out the door without an entourage of Becca, 4, Luke, 2, and Baby Sara, 11 months. And for some reason they were all in bad moods and Sara was crying more on than off. We arrived at the barn accompanied by our dog, Thor, who not only chases chickens but also thinks he must impress milk cows with his importance. A cast of about 30 chickens were with us, too, pursuing the grain can I was holding, figuring on sharing the cow's feed.

Number 108 apparently had never been in the presence of whining children, a barking dog, or cackling, crowing, thieving chickens. She wouldn't move a foot when I tried to chase her, and she turned out to have a solid distaste for stanchions. Fifteen minutes later I was squatting in the middle of the barn holding crying Sara with one arm, trying to milk with the other, and admonishing the children and Thor by turns to be quiet. The chickens were in the manger eating the cow's grain. At that moment Dolly yelled from the house that I

was wanted on the telephone, and I thanked God for mercifully giving me a release from my suffering.

When I returned to the barn after the phone call, I was alone because the baby was asleep in her crib and the other children were happily occupied elsewhere. The chickens had their tummies full of the cow's grain, so they were off looking for something more exciting—fat bugs perhaps. And I'd locked the dog in the house. By the time the milking was over, number 108 had developed such an affection for me that she followed me back to the house and walked around it for the next 2 hours, mooing longingly.

The homesteading literature is somewhat slanted toward goats. Goats are small, and they are playful, mischievous, and fun. But I've had experience with both cows and goats and let me tell you—cows may not jump around, but still water runs deep, and they sure enough have an emotional life. This morning I was getting ready to milk number 108, now called Nelly. I've submitted to her disinclination for stanchions and discovered it a blessing. I finally realized that I couldn't drive her anyplace because her notion is to follow me, and if I get behind her she just stands there. There's always a period of adjustment when a new animal joins your family. A cow has a different mentality from a goat. Cows are very steady animals. Once a cow gets a notion of how things are supposed to be, that's the way she's going to proceed, and it's unreal for any mere human to try convincing her otherwise. But if you learn to yield a little to a milk cow's . V preferences, she can be really loving and giving in her own way. So now I gather up the milk bucket. I use a plastic bucket because it's so much quieter— doesn't rattle and ping and startle the animals or me out of our reveries. And I fill a jar or pitcher part way with warm water and put a rag in it, for udder-washing and seduction. Then I go directly from the house through the gate into the field. Nelly sees me and comes right away. It's not good for milk cows to run. My father drilled that into me—never, never run a milk cow. Nelly used to run to me when she saw me, but that was when she was new and so nervous. When a 700-lb. cow runs up to you, that's too much love. You'd really rather she walked up—just in case her brakes slip. But now as soon as Nelly sees me she starts coming, following me to wherever I decide to stop. That will be a flat spot inside the barn or in the field, depending on the weather. If I bring grain and the chickens follow, Nelly starts eating the grain along with the chickens. She's used to them now. She has a much bigger mouth than they do, so they don't really get away with that much. I take my bucket and go to the rear and start milking.

It's so nice out in the sunshine. The children may be near, and the dog too, but Nelly is used to them now. Nelly, being a Jersey, isn't very high off the ground. I can even sit on the ground to milk. She's very careful not to move around while I'm milking. Instinct tells her she must be still. Her whole psychology is such a beautiful mixture of inborn wisdom about how she will take care of me (or a calf) and how I will take care of her (she's descended from millennia of "domesticated" human companions) that it's virtually a spiritual experience being near her. Her belly is hanging low because she's full of calf again. I think any animal—whether it be a goat, cow, sheep, reindeer, or yak—that goes through being pregnant, bearing young, and then using her own body to make food, enough food for her baby and mine too, deserves a lot of respect and affection. When I started writing this book I had goats. Now I have cows. They're both wonderful.

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