Saturday, March 17, 2012

Milking Cows Unmasked

Did you see that 101 Dalmations movie that came out about twenty years ago, and do you remember that part where the puppies find refuge in an old barn with the cows? Or how about the story books with the golden light hitting that hay and a cute little milking maid toting her bucket and kneeling besides the happy cow?

It's. Not. Real.

Like everything else Disney and children's books produce, it's almost a complete fallacy.

The reality of milking is first that someone has to go round up the cows on a quad or motorbike and herthem to the shed. Then, you don your apron and slide between nose-dripping, pooping, peeing, terrified, slightly -wild, several hundred pound pregnant females.

"The girls" file into the two rows on either side of a middle, slightly lower, cement row that has the milking machines. They get to eat a couple kilos of cow feed while you go down the rows and hook up the hose with four cups attached to it (just google it if you can't wait for me to have fast internet to post pictures). It sounds easy right?

Well you're grossly mistaken, my friend! Who would like to have someone jam you alongside fifty other animals and then poke around your particulars and hook you up to a machine that sucks the juice out of you? It's sort of understandable that they give no regard whatsoever for whether you're standing in the line of fire when they need to go. I consider it a major win that I am learning to dodge the poop/pee spray and to listen for it coming. Also that I don't get nearly as dirty as I did the first couple of days!

You can use the high-pressure hose to clean everything once in a while but they just roll on through for two hours straight, first one row, then the other.

Glenn or Tracey clean the cups and whole system and hose out the area to get ready for the next morning's milking at 5:50AM. When we start in the afternoons, it's about 3PM and we finished around 5PM.

There's a whole machine operation aspect to milking that I'm not really involved with. I'm keen to learn but to be realistic, we all know I've had trouble with machinery in the past. The chief examples being the washing machine in France and that time a friend of mine and I tried to re-wire my car radio.

As gross as it can be, they can be almost adorable sometimes with their snotty noses and tufts of hair between their big, fuzzy ears. Seeing cows run has definitely been on my list of favourite things to see for several years and it hasn't diminished! Watching a whole herd of going on first-year calves run to catch up to the quad bike is downright delightful. I wish I could tell the wily old girls that when I smear the poop off my hands on their bums as I walk by, it's not just to clean them a bit, but a little show of affection!

Now you know.

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