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The Country Enterprise Handbook
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........ Milk
...In the dairy
...Dealing with milk

Many producers milk goats and sheep by hand; very few milk cows by hand.

The smaller animals are quicker to milk and often their owners enjoy the peaceful routine of hand-milking. This is compared to the noisier use of machinery and the necessity to clean the machine out afterwards. It's easier with your hands - you just wash them! The peaceful routine of hand-milking in fact only comes after some days or weeks of agony. If you have never handmilked and launch straight in, the exquisite agony of pains in your tendons and muscles cannot be described. Your grip on the teat should be as soft as silk, your squeeze gentle but the regular stresses on unprepared muscle makes the milker, not the milked, a creature of torn nerve ends. We started off our own venture with goats milking by hand because in those early days manufacturers of milking machines thought the goat market too small to bother with. With the boom in goats came the machines and truthfully we very thankfully joined the ranks of the automated. We have only milked cows by hand when absolutely necessary, for example, milking the odd house cow when our elderly machine started having hiccups. They were always perfectly happy, as we smiled and spoke softly in their presence. If you are milking a cow by hand you must be fairly quick about the whole operation. The cow 'lets down', that is releases her milk, for only about seven minutes. That sounds a lot until you are faced with a heavy yielding cow and then it's like 'beat the clock'. The different pulses required to milk cows, goats and sheep are now all catered for by the machinery experts. (We are reliably informed that they also cater for llamas and camels should that interest you.)

The obvious increase in yield when a dairy cow goes out on to fresh grass may become a thing of the past. Hydroponic grass units - there are some churning out tons of sprouted grass daily - could make it Summer all year long. This makes it theoretically possible for dairy cows never to set foot on grass at all. If you cut all the grass they consume from the field and cart it to them you can also become an indoor milk producer. The thought that those gentle beasts never eat a single daisy or tread on a little ant in the production of that great foodstuff seems to remove a lot of the pleasure from drinking it. However, when the rain is pouring and your precious land is being chewed up by great bovine hooves, the question can be seen in quite a different light.