Bringing Her Home, a Brief Run-Down on Things to Have, and the Steps to Milking by Hand
Updated: Aug 27
We were very brave. And rather naive. I'm going to share with you the things you should have in place BEFORE you bring home your first cow.
Before that, though, I'm gonna tell you a bit about bringing her home. She was so excited to get out of that awful trailer, of course! And so thrilled with her new pasture! It was funny, though, she didn't know what to do with the green grass. I guess she had always been in a yard with her fellow Jerseys, eating dried alfalfa. We gave her alfalfa, but after a few days she found that the green grass was for eating! Now she prefers her green grass over alfalfa.
The first week was tough. She was sooo lonely. Jerseys are very social creatures, and to be without her life-long friends was difficult for her. My oldest son was in tears more than once, listening to her bawl. She adjusted after the first week, and definitely bonded with us. She begs for us to come pet her, bring her treats, or just hang out with her in her pasture. We've debated getting her a friend (but more on that another time).
Now to the milking essentials (and a brief how-to for beginners)...
First off, you'll need some sort of shelter. Jerseys hate getting wet. Also, milking in the rain is no fun, I promise!
You'll want some sort of stanchion. This one is essentially what she had at the dairy. We should have had posts in the ground, something set up for her before we left that day. Needless to say, it was very harried, trying to rig something up as soon as we got home. (She was an hour or more past her normal milking time already.) Cal (from Graber Jerseys) kindly threw in a couple of these old stanchions before we left, which he dug out of his barn. I love that we are repurposing something so old! Check out the date on the handle:
Copyright 1916. It still works great. She walks right in to eat, and we close it around her neck. Some people prefer a full stanchion, so the cow can't move at all. Some stanchions are built up higher. This works just fine for us.
Before beginning milking, she will need her udder cleaned. I started out using a rag with warm water & just a bit of bleach.
(Or you can use an Iodine Dip Cup, before & after milking. That's the way I do it now.)
The very handy, classic milk pail. Stainless, and with a lid. I'll link below where I purchased mine.
It depends how much milk your new cow will be producing, as to how large a pail you'll be needing. Iona was producing 2 gallons max at each milking, so this one worked for her. It's a 2 gallon, 2.5 quart pail.
Now, I'm not going into a how-to-hand-milk. There are plenty of videos out there for that. It's a technique you'll only get down pat by practicing: lots of practice! It can also be quite a work-out. I didn't realize how many muscles in my hands and forearms that never got used much before I began milking.
I keep my milking pail cold in the fridge if I have the space. I also keep one or two ice packs sanitized and put them into the pail before beginning. The faster you can get the milk cooled down, and keep it cold, the longer it will stay fresh.
After milking, wash her udder and teats well again, using a warm rag with a bit of bleach. Use Udder Balm after. Otherwise, her udder & teats will get really dry. I believe this also helps prevent mastitis and other infections.
There are a lot of places to purchase this. Here's one option
Now, you get to strain your raw milk! Just to get the random fly or hair out. If she ever puts her foot in the pail, or anything else too icky, that milk gets thrown out.
That's the strainer without the filter. This is where I purchased mine
This is my well-used box of disposable filters. These are for one-time use only. Again, something you can purchase multiple places. These are probably some of the cheaper-priced:
My strainer with the filter in place, ready to strain the milk.
It's nice to have your jar, or whatever you put your milk in, already chilled from the fridge.
Strain your milk and get it immediately into the fridge. Or, you can stick it in the freezer for a short while to start chilling it even faster. (Just don't forget it in there. Ha!)
The milk, chilling. (I love a good pun.)
We put our milk into a 2 gallon glass beverage dispenser. Over the course of several hours, the cream rises to the top, and we can strain it off (if we wish). Check out the cream line in this pic. We can dispense out the bottom until the milk runs out, then bottle the cream. But we really prefer most of the cream on (just mix it in). Unless we are needing fresh cream for making butter or whatever.
The other way to separate the cream, other than a cream separator, is to let the cream rise, then dip a container or ladle evenly into the cream. The cream flows over the top into the container or ladle.
One more thing: I happen to think a good brush is important for your milk cow. For bonding, and because they REALLY look nice with a brushed and shining coat.
So that's it! The basics of what you should get BEFORE you leave with a cattle trailer hooked on behind. And a brief how-to for the time when you get to try milking for the first time. In a later post, I'll talk about things like what to feed your milk cow, jars and labeling, and other fun stuff (like making butter, which is why I wanted a cow in the first place).