Drying up Annabelle

I knew this day would come, opening the last jar of raw milk from the last milking of Annabelle on March 10th.  I was a bit concerned how she would dry up, since she was fighting a bit of mastitis, but she is doing well and has had no further problems since.

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This is how I milk her, and how I cleared up her mastitis.

First of all, our cows are grass-fed only, no grain, and we milk only once a day.  Once a day milking is so much less stress on everyone, including the cows, and of course it is much easier to do when she has a calf on her, which Annabelle does not have.  When a cow is also nursing a calf, you have the option of separating them overnight, and milking first thing in the morning and then reuniting them for the day.  We rarely needed to separate the calf off, as she would give plenty of milk for our needs anyway, but you also have the luxury to skip milking once in a while, as the calf will take care of the milk. The other luxury I have is that I can milk at a time when is most convenient, usually mid day during the bitter cold winter, as the shed is nice and warm then.

This past fall, Luit enclosed a shed outside of our metal barn with panels from our greenhouse, and moved the stanchion in there, and it was a treat to milk in that cozy spot.

I feed Annabelle some alfalfa hay and do not even need to close the stanchion, as she patiently waits to be milked.  Becca, Faline and Fiona are not being patient outside, as they want alfalfa too. Of course I have to lock the pigs up first, and they scream when they smell the milk.

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A cow’s udder will definitely change during the course of milking, and when a calf is first born, she will let her milk down quickly and her bag will be full when you start milking.  Annabelle is at the end of her milking cycle, was giving about 1 gallon, and did not let her milk down until massaged really well.  This is her bag before I cleaned and massaged her, and you can see it is quite empty.

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and from the side

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I like microfiber cloths to clean her with and I buy them in different colors, blue for milking, and yellow and green to use in the house. I fill a jar with hot water and by the time I begin milking it has cooled off to warm.

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Wash her udder very well, which will also cause her to let her milk down.

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Then I dry her off

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and before I milk her I apply my homemade Annabalm, which is a mixture of lanolin, coconut oil, tea tree oil…

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FYI, I never do make this balm in a glass jar, but I was out and quickly made some for her last milking. This is why:

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I usually just make it in the plastic lanolin container, but then again, if the milkman leaves it in the barn, then the pigs think it is a snack. The other reason you don’t want to leave it in the barn is that it becomes hard as a rock when it is cold.

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Massage her well, which will make her let her milk down more.

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The next thing you do is strip out some milk from each teat, before you begin to milk in the pail.

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I have two of these milk pails with lids and they hold about 2.5 gallons. We used to milk in a stainless steel pan, then pour the milk into these buckets, as she will fill up both of them for several months when she has first calved. When she is not producing very much I just milk straight into this pan.

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The way you milk is to close your thumb and first finger around the top of the teat, to close it off, and then use the rest of your fingers to squeeze the milk out.

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In this post there are a couple of videos of my milkman doing his speed milking. I am much slower and though I do milk with both hands sometimes, I usually prefer to hold the pail with one hand and milk with the other, switching off between hands. I think that is one reason I can get more milk out of her than Mr. Speedy, but yes, it takes more time,

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and my milk is cleaner than his. 😉

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After she is totally empty, I apply the udder balm again, (another thing my milkman rarely does.) I think it is very important to apply before and after milking, and especially when she has a calf on her, as they can destroy a mama’s bag pretty fast.

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Now she is empty and soft and ready to be let go

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I put everything up so the pigs don’t destroy everything.

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Thanks to my dear and wise friend Kelli I had been dosing her with homeopathic remedies to clear her up from mastitis. (When a cow has mastitis you need to milk them out several times a day as well.)

Pulsatilla and Sulfur.

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She also told me that you should never touch the pellets with your hands, but just turn the lid and they will dispense one by one into the lid.

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Five or six pellets is all it takes, once a day or more, until everything is cleared up.

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How do you administer these pellets?  It is pretty hard to ask a cow to open her mouth and let these dissolve under her tongue. Annabelle certainly spits them out.

My genteel and wise friend instructs that homeopathy needs only to come in contact with mucus membranes. She also knows what a dork I am and I don’t particularly feel comfortable with the “v” word. So you just move her tail and easily place them in her “v” word.

Now, Jamie, just grow up. It is only a word.

Oh, yeah? I actually did use that word in this post about when Annabelle was about to have her calf last July, and I am not about to put that word in print again.

I’m sick to announce that it is one of my most viewed posts, from certain unnamed European countries, who google things like “man with cow (insert ‘V” word.)” ugh, what a world.

How can we make it through the next month or so without raw milk, waiting for Becca to calf?

(hint, hint to my cow friends: “Will work for milk!” as I do have separated cream in the freezer, but I need a little milk to dilute it with so I can whip it for coffee, and some so my kefir won’t starve.)  xoxo

8 thoughts on “Drying up Annabelle

  1. Pingback: Grassfood Recipe Page | grassfood.

  2. Pingback: Milking Out a Dry Cow With Mastitis | grassfood.

  3. When referring to the “v” word prior to calving (mostly around the kids and people who don’t regularly talk about a cow’s “v” word) we started referring to her ‘sagging’ as a single, double, quadruple (etc.) passenger volvo. That way, we could comfortably discuss the state of her “ahem” around people that weren’t so comfortable with it. 🙂

  4. This makes me want to have my own cows. Or better yet, someone who has them but an excess of milk. I enjoy reading about such well cared for animals.

    • Oh Hilda, having your own milk cow is one of the most rewarding things in life. Once you have tasted real raw milk, thick cream, butter, kefir, cheese, sour cream AHHH! You can’t live without it. If you want to find someone close by with raw milk, go to http://www.realmilk.com and you can read about raw milk and their “real milk finder” which lists raw milk farmers all over the world.

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