Now we have some sort of routine established, I am more comfortable with the milk. At first, I was totally disgusted because Elsie lies in her poop and it gets on her udder. Cleaning it meant I had to touch it and that was horrible. I provide a nice place for her to lay down and her adopted son takes it up usually, so Elsie lies in the poop. I have started to clean her pen daily, which does help. That is gross too!
Now, to prepare her for milking, I halter her and walk her around a little bit, hoping she will stop to poop or pee prior to being milked. Sometimes she does. Then I take her to the outdoor spot I have a lead rope tied to the fence post. There are wood shavings on the ground there to absorb the poop and pee and make clean up easier, but wood shavings are 7 dollars a bag which goes nowhere. Two bags are necessary and even so, they disappear in no time. Back to the straw.
Then I brush her with a curry comb ensuring her back legs and udder are cleaned. If her udder is dry I rub it with a rubber brush to encourage the manure to flake off. I brush her body with a soft brush to help with the shedding of hairs and then cover her with a sheet to keep the flies at bay. She likes to be brushed.
Then I wash her with warm water and a squirt of iodine, but sometimes I have had to change the water three times. Finally she is dried. I have learned to be very careful about the space between the quarters and under her belly too. Then she is ready to be milked.
At first I sat on a small bucket, the height of a milking stool. This was way too low for me and I was terribly uncomfortable, so found a 5 gallon bucket and that is just perfect. I have milked her from both sides and she is equally good on either. I just prefer the right side for some reason. She has three small teats, but one quarter was lost to mastitis, so the two hind teats that are small are a two finger and thumb job. Because of my arthritic hands, I cannot milk for long without taking a break, so I milk with one hand and then the other. This takes twice as long, but that is OK. Elsie is good as gold, patiently standing while being milked.
The normal sized teat is harder for me to milk actually because I need to squeeze my hand so I have devised a pinch and squeeze with two fingers action that works for me. Today, I locked Freddy up for four hours and Elsie gave me about a gallon of milk. I had washed the milk pail prior and rinsed it well. Then when I was done, I removed the halter and let Freddy do what he could with the little that was left. I supposed Elsie held back some milk for him anyhow. She sure was not empty because he was suckling for more than a few minutes.
I strained the milk through a fine cotton cloth and put the very large 5 gallon jar into the fridge. Tomorrow some of the cream will have separated and risen to the top. I can skim it off for coffee or keep it for butter, but there is not enough really. I want to try making cheese. The first cheese will be farmer's cheese, made simply with vinegar and salt. I will try two quarts first and see how that tastes. If I like it, I will make some another time too, but once I get rennet and citric acid, I can make other cheeses too, like cottage cheese, mozzarella and cheddar, though cheddar requires specific conditions to age.
I am very glad to have Elsie and am grateful for her contribution to the farm and her gentle sweet presence. She is a delight and although she is 8 years old, she is the perfect cow for me. I love you Elsie!