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Wheyste Not, Want Not

February 7, 2015

I am pretty amazed with cows.  They can take grass, (or hay) and water and make those two essentials into milk.  In the case of a dairy breed you can really reap the benefits of the cow’s conversion of solar energy.  Even though I burned the ghee yesterday, I can still show you that nothing from all of Jane’s hard work will go to waste.

Milk is mostly water, and if you’re going in the home dairy “business” you know what I mean.  It takes a lot of water too even on a home scale to process the milk but that’s a different story, or post I should say.

We’re now six months+ into Jane’s lactation and I’m milking once a day.  The boys, Reese and Finch are still being fed twice a day, but I am skimming almost all of Jane’s four gallon a day output.  We reserve some whole milk for drinking, and some cream for coffee etc., and what the calves don’t drink goes to the chickens in the form of chicken cheese as a home-grown protein supplement.

Hand skimming isn’t as efficient cream-wise as a cream separator so the calves are getting some cream with their milk.  That’s essential to their health.  But the reason I have a dairy cow is to have my cake and eat it too.  I want to manufacture the fat we eat right here.  Hence the milk cow. And the butter.



This started out as 1 1/2 gallons of cream.

This started out as 1 1/2 gallons of cream.

Getting back to yesterday’s fiasco in the ghee department, all is not lost.  I did lose some production by burning the ghee, but I can use that in some cooking, even though I went a TAD past the nutty flavor stage.  Mostly though I will use it to cook the dog’s eggs.  I need to cook the whites for the dogs, and I need fat to do that, plus the dogs do need a little bit of fat in their diet.  So it’s not a total waste.  And it actually tastes okay… .

The water fraction of milk is pretty amazing.

If I didn’t burn the ghee I would have garnered at least another half pint, and if I wanted to go further down the processing path I could have reheated the whey, added acid of some sort, and made whey ricotta for the chickens.  But at some point you just have to stop.  But what I find most interesting about this is that I have almost a gallon of watery liquid from a gallon and one half of cream, what we all think of as total fat.

Maintaining a dairy animal at home is expensive, so finding a use for every drop of milk is important.

From grass to kitchen involves a few numbers, so I’ll just shorten this tip of the iceberg story problem to what goes on after milking.  I take about a pint of cream from each gallon (leaving some for the calves), so figure 12 gallons of milk to skim for 1 ½ gallons of cream.  That amount of cream will yield 3 pounds of butter or 2 ½ pounds of ghee.  You will also have at least 1 gallon of buttermilk after churning.  At this point the buttermilk can be used for baking or you can heat it again, and add some sort of acid to make a ricotta-like cheese.  Even if I baked like I used to I could never use 2 gallons or more of buttermilk a week.  After the cheese is made, I will have about a gallon of whey which then could be heated again to make a small amount of whey ricotta.  The whey can be used in lactofermented projects, for fertilizing, or for feed.  It’s pretty good stuff. Every bit of a family cow’s output is useful.

I am still amazed after all these years of milking a cow, the wonder of a family cow is still there.



20 Comments leave one →
  1. Deb P permalink
    February 7, 2015 1:35 pm

    Della is beautiful! As is Jane. Reese and Finch…. as in, Person of Interest, I am guessing? Mostly as a result of reading your blog, I am seriously considering a family cow. So these posts are so informative And useful. thanks for taking the time to write them, and share your wisdom.

    • February 9, 2015 9:34 pm

      Thanks so much Deb! Yes, Person of Interest, television casts provide some good names especially for the transient folks that will only be her a short time. Although if Jane has a heifer this year, Reese would have been Shah 😉

    • February 9, 2015 9:42 pm

      Deb, thanks so much. Yes, Person of Interest, always interesting and funny to think about as the animals grow.

  2. CassieOz permalink
    February 7, 2015 3:34 pm

    Dairy cows are MAGICAL. All that largesse and amazing personalities too! I love my two cows.

    • February 7, 2015 5:11 pm

      They’re the best aren’t they? I love my beef cows, but it’s not the same.

      • CassieOz permalink
        February 8, 2015 7:54 pm

        Well. No. There’s an intimacy in milking a cow that you don’t often get with a beefer (unless you end up with your hand up her behind of course). Also I reckon that the milk cows that couldn’t get on with hoomans didn’t get bred from so we’ve selected the cutest and most lovable over time.

  3. February 7, 2015 5:54 pm

    I am totally amazed with what you do. I think I wish I had a cow. However, I don’t think I could totally care for a cow. They scare me. I am single and live in the city, right smack in the middle of the city.

    Not to argue or correct you, but I read chickens should not have too much dairy products or their egg production would drop. So, I have not given my three as much dairy as I would like to. Now, I wonder.

    • February 7, 2015 6:31 pm

      PP, I don’t like feeding raw milk or too much whey to the chickens, but clabbered milk or the acid cheese seems to keep egg production up in the winter. Like anything moderation is the key.

  4. February 7, 2015 6:44 pm

    That is a cheesecake picture of Della. How in the world did you get her to pose like that? She was a pretty cow.

  5. Chris permalink
    February 7, 2015 6:45 pm

    Jane’s butter is beautiful, it’s so yellow.

  6. February 7, 2015 7:19 pm

    Re: chickens and milk – I always clabber the milk before the chickens get it (both goat and cow) – my understanding is that straight milk gives them the runs because of the lactose. Clabbering – the bacteria eats the lactose – problem solved.
    I could be off base here – but my laying hen production is stellar – twenty layers get a gallon of clabber every two days.
    And you’re right – at some point one has to stop. If I did everything I possibly could with the milk I’d have to stay home from work. Lucky chickens 😊

  7. Tara permalink
    February 7, 2015 8:30 pm

    Milk cows are such a gift. We’re milking two Canadiennes right now with the Jerseys and Guernsey waiting in the wings. We’re still in the breeding and culling heavily stage to figure out what works here.

    But, you’re butter! Beautiful! I just pulled out my second last jar of summer butter from the freezer. I don’t even bother with butter in the harsh climate of our winters, I just put it all into ghee. I am so looking forward to having my supplies restocked. I can be ok with pennies in the bank, but dwindling food stores make me antsy.

  8. February 7, 2015 10:34 pm

    Thank you so much for posting even though you burned the ghee. It is refreshing–sometimes the blog world/ Internet/ pinterest and the rest can leave us mortals feeling inadequate and like we will never get there. I’ve been following your blog since the simple green frugal days but I have never commented. I admire your dedication to your farm. Reading your blog is like being home with the farming women I grew up around. I learn something from every post, and I appreciate that you put in the time to write after already working a long day. Thank you! Jill

  9. February 9, 2015 8:37 am

    So, do you culture your cream before you churn it into butter, or do you clabber the buttermilk after? I am just curious.

    • February 9, 2015 9:39 am

      Ms. Pris, if I am going to make butter, I culture, if it’s going to end up as ghee I don’t bother. Because I really don’t need the buttermilk for cooking (way less bread products around here these days) I either heat it a bit to hasten the clabbering or I heat it and make acid cheese right away. Clabbering is nice if you have a ton of room to have milk sitting around in various stages of getting ripe, but I don’t so I’m trying to keep the milk flowing into and out of the kitchen as fast as possible.

  10. February 9, 2015 2:58 pm

    Won’t you be my neighbor…? 🙂

  11. Carrie permalink
    February 11, 2015 4:28 am

    I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, Della was a very handsome cow of the ‘traditional’ type. To my mind, they’re much nicer to look at than the modern ‘milking machine’ sorts that are all hips, hocks and bag.

    • February 11, 2015 5:32 am

      Carrie, I agree, I love Jane but she is a whole different phenotype, Marilyn Monroe compared to Twiggy. Jane is all hips, hocks and bag.

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