Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How I Hand Milk My Dairy Cow Every Day~

Milking a cow is simply a blessing. Is it a commitment? Yes. Is there work involved? Oh, yes. Is it worth it? You betcha! Belle continues to be the best investment on our homestead and many people want to know about it. They want to to know if it is right for them or could it be something to consider for their homestead in the future. That is a personal decision. It is one you should weigh out carefully and pray on, but part of that is to understand how to milk a cow. What all is involved? I am sure every homestead and approach is different. However, here is how I milk her everyday now and how it has worked beautifully for us here at Appalachia’s Homestead!

A dairy cow should be milked approximately every 12 hours. We stick very close to that routine. If you don't, you risk having a miserable cow and possibly endangering her health as well. Three days after Belle had her heifer (Baby Maybelle) in May, we began milking her every 12 hours with the calf. Once Maybelle grew (and grew!), she began taking more milk and we were able to pull away from the evening milking. It took a few months to get there, but it has worked out wonderfully for us. We are now on the routine of milking Belle every morning around 8am, turning her out to pasture with Maybelle for the day, and then separating them in the evening and overnight to start the routine once again.

I milk Miss Belle every morning in her milking stall. She awaits every morning to dash into the milking stall for her fresh feed, hay, and of course, her milking. She as gotten quite accustomed to the spa treatment she receives during that time and I am completely convinced she enjoys it.

I always make sure everything is set up, prepped, cleaned, and that every critter in the barn is taken care of before letting Belle into her milking stall. I try very hard to minimize any and all distractions. I aim for happy milking sessions with no stress and lots of singing to Belle... happy cow, happy homesteader! 

-Video on Patara singing "Rocky Top" while milking Belle here:

Here are the completed tasks and chores completed before letting Miss Belle enter her milking stall:

1. The milking stall is clean and has fresh pine shavings ~
2. I have both spray bottles ready to go - Betadine Cleaner Spray & Homemade Freshener Spray ~
3. 3 gallon stainless milking pail-completely washed and sanitized~
4. Washing pail with very warm, soapy water (Dr. Bronner's) ~
5. Clean wash cloth ~
6. Fresh towel ~
7. Feed (nonGMO feed/dairy mix with minerals and DE) and hay ready to greet her ~
8. My hands are washed ~

Once I let her rush into the stall (she's hungry!), here is the run down of exactly what I do:

1. Chain Belle to the stall post from her halter. I firmly believe every milking cow should be in a halter for many reasons, but that is another post for another day. This chain keeps her from backing out of the stall and from shifting too far from side to side. I do not place anything else on her. It works here.
2. Spray her udder with the 50/50 Betadine/water spray 
3. Mist her with my Homemade Freshener Spray. This is my very own solution with diluted Dr. Bronner's  Castille Soap (lavender) and water with a few drops of Eucalyptus oil. I use this all over my barn. It's wonderful. It's effective. Be sure to watch the video posted below on how to make it. I then brush her to knock off debris or hay.
4. Wash udder with very warm, soapy water (Dr. Bronner's) and a clean wash cloth.
5. Dry udder with clean towel to remove any remaining residue. I literally wipe until the towel wipes clean.
6. Squirt each teat 2-3 times prior to collection to express initial masses of any bacteria.
7. Sing and milk away! "Rocky Top" is the favorite around here (see Vid above!)...

-Video on Homemade Freshener Spray here:

Once I finish milking-which takes about 10-15 minutes, I strip the teats down. However, Miss Maybelle is waiting in the next stall and is now at a point of fully finishing her mother for me. I allow her in the stall and leave them for mommy and baby time, so I can go strain my bucket of beautiful milk. It won't last much longer now that Belle is bred again and Maybelle is soon to be weaned. For a while, I would help finish milking with the calf ensuring that Belle was fully stripped out. All excess went to hungry Cochise (our Great Pyrenees LGD), chickens, and pigs! If I was finishing the cow myself, I would spray the Betadine mix again after stripping each teat. This would help decrease the chance of bacteria getting into her teats once the milking was completed. 

A dairy cow literally feeds everyone on a homestead! It is amazing how much milk we get... I am getting a minimum of 1.5-2 gallons each morning. If my milk begins to build in the fridge, there is never an issue. I make yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir, butter, and buttermilk from her milk and skimmed cream. I also make a point to pour off her sweet milk to my chickens and pigs after Cochise gets his first dibs on days I know I have extra. There is honestly just enough to go around on this homestead. We never waste a single drop!

Once I bring the milk in, I immediately pour it through two strainers into 1/2 gallon glass Ball canning jars. They are immediately placed into the freezer for 60 minutes for an immediate cool down to slow any bacteria and then placed into the fridge. I'd like to tell you a specific spoiling period on her raw milk, but we drink it so fast, we have never had any go bad! It is so pure and delicious... words can not describe the joy of drinking it. 

This is why I will always have a dairy cow on my homestead. Despite the work, I love every single minute with her and the precious milk. 

Thank you, Miss Belle! We love you!


  1. Thank you for all your lovely videos and blogs! I have been trying to find some specific information about what to feed grass fed cows. in order to keep them at their healthiest. Do they need extra hay for roughage in addition to fresh pasture, and any other supplements? Do you feed any grain and how much? What kind of minerals should be given? I can't seem to find info on those specifics anywhere. Thank you for your time!