Herding Pigs & Washing Udders, Part 2
Last week I posted about working with the pigs on the farm. Due to popular demand, here are a few more pig pics.
The farm I’m apprenticed to is primarily a raw dairy farm. We have five dairy cows: Kirstin, Tilda, Tippy, Penny, and Angela. Angela is pregnant and due any day now. The cows must be milked twice daily every day. One of my daily duties is to help Genevieve with the evening milking.
We triply assure that the udder is clean before attaching the milking ‘claw’ (yes, it looks like a claw!). First Genevieve high-pressure sprays the hind legs and udders with the hose. We spray the hind legs so that if the cow kicks her udder she doesn’t get it all dirty again.
Then I wash the udders with a clean cloth using hot soapy water. Genevieve finishes up right before milking with an iodine wipe on the teats. Every udder is different. Some cows’ udders hang lower (making milking more awkward), some have teats closer together, some have teats that are really long and skinny. I am happy to now be able to tell all five cows apart without having to ask. I might even be able to tell you which cow it was just by seeing their udder. (Maybe.)
Kirstin is the boss cow. She always leads the herd into the dairy parlor, and leads them back out again after milking.
Ten things I have learned about dairy cows:
- They don’t like their routine changed.
- They are sneaky, and will sometimes get in the wrong order in the milking parlor.
- They will eat as much as you give them and still pretend they are starving.
- They took about three weeks to trust me around them and not shift, twitch, move, or kick while I washed them.
- They will try to eat each other’s food, even though they can’t reach it.
- Getting hit in the face with the soft hair part of their tail stings a bit. I am told by Genevieve that the bony part hurts more. [Ok, yes, I now know this to be true. Last week, Tilda, who does not have the tassel part of her tail, got me full on the bridge of the nose.]
- Some cows are born with only three out of four teats working (producing milk). They are sometimes called three-quarters cows. As each teat is a completely separate quadrant of the udder, this is not an impediment to the other teats producing milk.
- Pregnant cows are more fidgety. Imagine. Poor Angela looks like she has a Buick Century in her belly.
- Udders are mostly hairless (compared to the rest of the cow) but they are often freckled! Sometimes the freckles look like dirt. This is discovered by trying to scrub them off.
- Cow ears point where they are looking. If they are swiveled all the way back, that means they are looking back behind them (at me, thinking “what are you doing to my udder, puny human?”).
I like the cows. Genevieve has started to train me to use the milking machine, just with a couple of the cows who are the most calm with me (Kirstin and Tilda, and Tippy, so far). I have found that Kirstin, the alpha cow, will comfortably lean on me a little, solid and warm, as I am milking her. It’s a nice little cow moment. Cow cuddling. I am little spoon to Kirstin’s big spoon.
Oh, and they give delicious milk. And butter. And cream. Yummmmm.
Question of the day: If you could keep any sort of farm animal (for company, food production, or other purposes), what would it be and why?
Thank you for all the stories last week!