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It’s Not the Milking

June 27, 2013

The most frequently asked question I get about having a family cow is, “How long does it take to milk?”

But, I have to be honest folks, the actual milking isn’t what drives you to drink, it’s the housekeeping involved with the milk.   I milk by hand, and the milking part of the cow keeping is actually the shortest increment of time I allot to the dairy labor column.  I can’t boast a 7 minute milk out like my friend with a machine.  But in fifteen minutes I can be back in the house with two gallons of foamy milk.  That includes walking to the barn, tying up Dickie, fixing Jane’s treat, and then fetching Jane, milking and walking back to the house.

skimming the cream

skimming the cream

Before I go out though, I need to have my clean jars waiting for me when I come back from the barn.  I only have so many jars and refrigerator room to store them in.  To do that means I need to keep my milk inventory moving.  My main objectives with a family cow are pretty simple.  We want raw, whole milk to drink, and we want to stock the freezer with butter for the coming year.   I also want Jane to raise a nice calf, so he needs his whole milk allotment too.  It’s looking like I can keep Jane at 6 gallons a day production-wise and that is working out perfectly for me.  I can take 4 gallons per day and leave 2 for Dickie.

I have veered off the path of my upbringing by feeding my calves whole milk.  It used to be that you fed calves the skim milk, and you kept the cream for yourself or to sell as cream or butter.  In the late 1890’s and into the teens, my grandmother milking several cows made a good income selling butter to the logging camps nearby.  Talk about local farms selling to local eaters.  So different than now, where local eating is just a buzzword for marketing.  A choice if you want to eat local or not.  In those days, you ate what was available, and it was all local or you didn’t eat.

washing the jars

washing the jars

So if I was my grandmother, I would milk the cow, bring the milk to the house, run it through the cream separator and then trot back out to the house with the warm skim milk for the calf.  But, despite having several cream separators at my disposal, I have found what works best for me is to cool the milk (at least 24 hours) and hand skim the milk after the cream has risen.  I take two gallons each milking and leave what’s left for the calf.  Washing a cream separator is a pain, a pain I chose not have in my life.  A cream separator is great if you have several cows to milk each day and you want higher percentage of cream than you can skim by hand.   This also works for me because I happen to have a charitable cow who lets down her milk for me.  Milk sharing doesn’t always work

So,  having my butter and eating it too means I need an outlet for that skim milk…

Boyd & Ava - help on the way

Boyd & Ava – help on the way

The logical and easiest thing for me to do with that skim milk is to turn it into pork.  Other farmsteads may have a different approach, this is just one way to use up excess fluid milk.

43 Comments leave one →
  1. Bee permalink
    June 27, 2013 9:34 am

    And then there’s always cottage cheese and mozzarella, and letting the milk clabber so you can give to the chickens…

    • June 27, 2013 9:42 am

      Yeah, I’m about sick of cottage cheese though, and it’s only been two weeks :p Although the blueberries and rhubarb are loving the whey 🙂

  2. Regina Pishion permalink
    June 27, 2013 11:36 am

    Penny always holds out on the cream for her calf/calves. I have given up trying to make butter from the single ladle full that I get on my jars. But, the flip side, is: there’s days I don’t have to milk and Christopher is looking very tasty.

    • June 27, 2013 11:55 am

      Yeah, Jane does a little of the same, but I still get enough, and you’re right, the proof is in the eating 🙂 Hugs to Penny and Fay of course 😀

  3. June 27, 2013 11:39 am

    Ooooh.. good idea to get pigs! Turn that extra into bacon! I have a friend who is raising pigs for my family and hers, and they get a lot of whey and extra milk “products” from a small family dairy down the road. Win-Win!

    • June 27, 2013 11:56 am

      If only pigs were all bacon, and all milk were butter. Sigh. Raising our own pigs has sure cured me of my bacon habit over the years. If allowed I would eat bacon every day. The pigs keep me honest!

  4. June 27, 2013 12:10 pm

    So what you’re saying is that if I manage to talk my husband into a cow, it’ll be easy to convince him to get pigs, too? Excellent. Let’s keep that between you, me and the internet, though, OK?

  5. June 27, 2013 1:59 pm

    My neighbour where I get my raw Jersey milk from gave me 5 litres of cream the other day and I have been making lots of butter. I have frozen the buttermilk and made some buttermilk scones the other day which were lovely. What else can I do with the extra buttermilk? Cheers:)

    • June 27, 2013 3:24 pm

      Oh my gosh, the scones sound wonderful 🙂 Buttermilk is wonderful for any kind of baking. Mine usually goes to the pigs or chickens since we don’t eat many baked goods anymore. But I used to use buttermilk in lots of recipes that called for milk.

  6. June 27, 2013 3:12 pm

    We do much the same, though I make cheese there’s only so much that you need. The pigsters get any excess skimmed milk and all the whey.

  7. June 27, 2013 3:51 pm

    I make cheese several times a week, but then I have to tip the whey on the compost, so I do want to get pigs to eat the whey. It is a lot of work dealing with all that milk! You do well making all that butter, I made ice cream instead 🙂

    • June 27, 2013 4:54 pm

      Yeah that ice cream puts a dent in our butter supply, but it sure is good 🙂 I wait all year for raspberries and cream though, heck with the ice cream.

  8. Chris permalink
    June 27, 2013 4:08 pm

    So, did you just get those little porkers?? I haven’t seen them on your farm before…not sure if you’ve been following Cecelia’s blog lately or not but she’s having a heck of a time with Charlotte and her new litter of piglets! Seems Charlotte is a terror to reckon with now that she is a new mother!!

    • June 27, 2013 4:57 pm

      Chris, yeah I just got them yesterday. I wanted to get them settled in before the heat wave and I needed something for all the milk. The chickens have put up a sign, NO MORE CLABBER! Last year my meat birds got all the extra milk and I’m not raising any this year so piggies it is.

      I don’t envy C., I am not a fond of pigs year round…I’ll let others be the expert pig folks. Momma cows suit me better 🙂

  9. Carol permalink
    June 27, 2013 5:00 pm

    How often to you make butter? Once a week? How much do you get? And how much do you use?

    • June 27, 2013 5:10 pm

      Carol, I churn every other day, and make two pounds at a time. With Jane holding back a little cream for her calf (hind milk)it takes almost 4 gallons of milk to get 1/2 gallon of cream which yields a pound of butter plus buttermilk. We easily use a 100 + pounds of butter a year, which sounds like a lot but when you think of 2 or 3 meals a day, every day from scratch, that’s a lot of cooking! Add baking in and whooee I need a lot more than a hundred pounds 😀

  10. Jocelyn permalink
    June 28, 2013 3:43 am

    I would love to hear about your milk management–how do you handle all that milk? Does it sit in the fridge for a while, until you can’t stand it? Or do you have a schedule–like Tuesdays are butter days, Wednesdays are cheese days and so on? How much time does it all take to make? I have a very little experience with making cheese, but I’m going to be doing it all the time so we have homemade cheese instead of store bought. I just don’t know how much time realistically is involved.

    I’m asking because I have dairy goats. One had kidded a few weeks ago, and so I had been milking her, but now I’ve got another in milk, and she’s just gangbusters. Two more goats are slated to be bred for next year, making that 4 goats in milk, which will be a lot. I know we can use it, though, so I’m not worried, I’m just worried about management. I know my husband is already having nightmares about gallons and gallons of milk taking up refrigerator real estate. I would love to know how you handle all that milk every day, as I’m pretty much headed in the same direction. Did you ever post on your system? Would you? Any advice you would give would be very appreciated. I don’t want to waste any of that precious milk.

    Thanks so much!

    • June 28, 2013 8:24 am

      Jocelyn, I have one fridge devoted to milk, so I can store about 15 gallons of milk if I need too. However, I don’t usually keep it that long. When I have 8 gallons of milk at least 24 hours old, which is 2 days at this point in the lactation, I skim the cream, add culture, and make butter by that evening. So right now, every other day I am making butter for future use. The skim milk then goes into buckets for clabbering for the pigs and chickens or when the pigs get bigger I may go to using a food grade 55 gallon drum for clabbering. It’s all materials handling, you just need to figure out how much heavy lifting you want to do. Milk is heavy. When I bring the milk in for straining, I use either half gallon mason jars for personal use, and one gallon wide mouth jars for milk that will be skimmed. I’m in charge of the milk, so to make it easier on the milk drinkers here, I put a magnet on top of any my experiments so someone doesn’t get a big swig of buttermilk or something else when they are expecting milk. Makes home life a little easier 😉

      For me, I don’t have time to make much cheese other than occasionally I make mozzarella, ricotta or cottage cheese, but you can definitely use up a lot of milk making cheese 🙂

      Hope that helps – you’ll love having all that dairy at your disposal 🙂

      • Jocelyn permalink
        June 28, 2013 6:14 pm

        That does help, thank you. I’m starting to love it already–I was just getting worried about the space issue. A second small fridge may be in order–after all, we did buy a second freezer for our meatbirds, can’t see why it’d be a big deal. It would be a good investment. Mostly, because my husband would not go as insane…. I think.

        Yes, I understand the system you use and I have one similar–I have 1/2 gallon jars for the “drinkable” milk, and gallon jars (that look different) for the “usable” milk. I don’t have much time either with the gardens and other animals, but I think I’m going to have to find time somewhere! My family LOVES cheese (me too!)!

        Thank you so much for your answer. I appreciate it.

  11. June 28, 2013 4:07 am

    I do exactly the same thing with our goat milk. The pigs love it!

  12. June 28, 2013 7:36 am

    I can only dream of ever owning a cow or producing my own milk, but I just love reading your posts and living vicariously through you.

  13. Chris permalink
    June 28, 2013 8:02 am

    Why don’t you like raising pigs? Are they just too smart for their own oinkers? 🙂

    • June 28, 2013 8:04 am

      I don’t mind raising pigs to eat, but farrow to finish is an expensive proposition. Keeping mature hogs that eat feed I can’t grow is kinda hard on the checkbook 😦

  14. Chris permalink
    June 28, 2013 8:48 am

    Got it! Not sure if C. will do the piggy thing again either…they’ve really been kind of a pain so far…at least since the littles have come along!!
    Love your garden…don’t know how you do all that!!

    • June 28, 2013 9:55 am

      Chris, it is so wet and muddy here during the rainy season and unless you have space devoted to pigs inside, they really can do a number on the soil, despite what people will tell you. We used to get weaners early and keep them in the greenhouse/hens during the wet season. PITA! I like the quick and done method myself.

  15. Janet permalink
    June 28, 2013 9:41 am

    Yes, the washing and washing and washing…. sigh….. 😉 do you have your cottage cheese recipe posted somewhere? I would love to have it. 😀 Thank goodness for piggies, then I don’t feel bad when they get the skim milk or whey.

    • June 28, 2013 10:03 am

      Janet, I know it’s a constant, and my kitchen is old and cramped. At least it keeps the dishes done and deck cleared, as long as I can keep anyone from putting something in the sink before I get back with the milk.

      Tammy’s recipe is as close to how I do it as you’ll find. Much easier than some recipes I’ve seen. And it’s a good way to use up some skim milk.

      • Janet permalink
        June 30, 2013 10:21 am

        Thank you! Yes, some of the recipes were too complicated for me to want to try. I hear you about someone putting something in the sink before I get back! I have to wash whatever is in the sink so it is ready for me and then I come back and GRR!!! 🙂

  16. Racquel permalink
    July 1, 2013 6:22 am

    I am considering getting a milk cow ( we have to try everything at least once) and I am wondering about milking and the calf getting fed. Do you milk just until you have what you want and then let the calf nurse or do you have to milk until the cow is “dry” and then feed the calf. If you are letting the calf nurse how do you ensure that you will get your portion of the milk?

    • July 1, 2013 11:24 am

      Racquel, I keep the calf and cow separated, I milk what I want or need, quantity determined by what I think the calf won’t be able to drink. The calf nurses after I am done milking. Using my method you need to halter train your calf and have a separate area for him/her. Most people keep the cow and calf separated, milk out the entire amount and bottle feed the calf. It just depends on what you’re comfortable doing or not doing. Personally I don’t care for bottle calves, but Jane is one and she is fine. A lot of that has to do with flight zone. Commercial dairies can deal with a cow with no flight zone most of the time because the cows are contained when they come in to be milked. In a home situation a cow with a good flight zone is safer IMHO. But if you ask 10 folks how they manage the cow and calf you’re going to get 10 different answers I suspect. My system works for me, but may not for other folks. Jane gets to bond with her baby twice a day and I don’t have a big calf charging me for a bottle twice a day. And the biggest advice I can say is be flexible, you may have to come up with your own system. The biggest reason to pull a calf is to get the cow to letdown for you, and of course to have more of the milk to sell. Just figure on the calf getting my on 2 gallons of milk a day and the rest will be yours to play with. A lot depends on you and the cow’s disposition.

      • Racquel permalink
        July 2, 2013 7:24 am

        thank you for that info. I’m sorta new to the homestead/farm thing comparatively and don’t have a big log of knowledge that is built over years like many, so what my seem obvious to others is news to me. Thanks again. great blog as always.

  17. Racquel permalink
    July 1, 2013 6:27 am

    PS. there is so much more to love about pork than just bacon. Have you tried dry curring? amasing cappicolla and also wet curred hams.

  18. Racquel permalink
    July 1, 2013 6:28 am

    Amazing. That word should read Amazing. ( Myspelling and typing are also amazing but in a totally different way.

  19. Kirby permalink
    July 7, 2013 9:16 am

    I know it’s off topic but, it is great to see Jane wearing her fly mask.

    • July 7, 2013 11:41 am

      Kirby, she is loving it! Thanks so much!

      I’ve been taking it off at night and it is working great! Do you want me to post a photo on KFC or put your info on here?

      • Kirby permalink
        July 22, 2013 8:45 am

        You can post pictures on KFC if you want but, here is great as well. If your followers would like some you can direct them to me on KFC. Every time someone posts pictures of their cows and calves in masks, I am busy for a few days. Love to you and Jane.

        • July 23, 2013 8:16 am

          Will do! As fly season is progressing here, they are really doing the trick! Hugs from Jane 🙂

  20. Barb in CA permalink
    September 16, 2013 6:42 am

    Quick questions. Sorry to pester you… where are you keeping the pigs? I’ve only read about the ones your neighbor kept/raised for you. When will they be going to freezer camp?

    • September 16, 2013 7:17 am

      Barb, I have them contained next to an implement shed that needed some blackberry abatement, so far they aren’t really doing much of a job on that except fertilizing the blackberries, so it’s temporary made with hog panels and conveniently located for me, to add feed to their self feeder, less than 100′ feet from the hose bibb so I can fill their water barrel, not too far for delivering their milk buckets or garden produce, and it’s in a spot where we can back the stock trailer up and load them for their date in October. All this flies in the face of grazing pigs, but they are here to do what pigs do, make use of what we can’t eat and make us some pork. When they’re gone, the chickens will get the extra milk, it makes a great farm raised protein supplement for hens in the winter.

      • Barb in CA permalink
        September 16, 2013 1:32 pm

        Like everything you do, your approach seems balanced between considering the animals, and considering the reasons you raise them in the first place. So smart. I know you’ll enjoy the bacon! Since you mentioned a protein source for the chickens… I’m reading “Folks, This Ain’t Normal” by Joel Salatin, and he talks about old-time farmers having to provide “some dead critter for the laying flock to eat in winter.” I have never read that you feed your chickens meat? Do you?

        • September 16, 2013 2:33 pm

          Barb, if we don’t have milk, I have on occasion, and definitely they have cleaned up some old meats that got lost in the freezer. They’ll clean it right to the bone.

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