Frances

Last night, we went out to the barn for milking and I knew from the start that something was wrong with Frances.  She didn’t want to come in the gate and that’s beyond unusual.  There was dinner waiting.

Furthermore, she was breathing heavily and rapidly.

I got her milked, she ate her dinner.  Milk supply was normal. I took her temperature.  It was 100.3 F, which is on the low side for a cow (normal is around 101.5 F). And when we were finished and let her out of the stanchion, she didn’t want her alfalfa hay.  She just stood there, breathing.

So I went to the house, got my stethoscope and called Jason, who came out about 20 minutes later.  In the meantime, I listened to her chest even though cow lungs are in a weird place compared with people lungs and I honestly wasn’t sure where to get the best sound.

Jason got there, listened to her briefly, and said, “She has pneumonia.”

Again.

We just did this two months ago.

I was afraid that’s what it was.

So, we had to make a decision. Either Jason could give her some intramuscular penicillin and probably have to repeat it for two or three days, and she would slowly get better (maybe), or we could spend the big bucks and get the 12-year-old vet out here.

We knew he could bring the big guns (prescription only) and she’d be much better in just hours, not days.

We called the vet.

He came out about three hours later and poor Frances suffered the indignity of having a prong thing put in her nose (literally tongs) to tie her head so she wouldn’t move while he gave her not only a nice powerful IV antibiotic but also IV Banamine.  That’s a livestock pain medication, something like Ibuprofen, and it’s great stuff.  Given IV, it makes them feel better really fast.

He also gave me a brief lesson in listening to cow lungs.  Interestingly, cow lungs are tiny. They are located way the hell up in the upper chest, and are about half the size of horse lungs. This, of course, is why Frances cannot run in the Kentucky Derby.

He said that I did well by realizing she was ill so rapidly, that she didn’t have a fever because she simply hadn’t been sick long enough to develop one, and also that she was probably going to be more susceptible to this going forward than she has been in the past.

This means that except on very nice summer nights, she gets to be in the barn at night, which made Dave sob with grief, as she does massive amounts of poopy.  But cleaning up some cow shit is cheap compared with vet visits.

By this morning, she was looking way better.  Not perfect, but a lot better.  She hadn’t eaten a bite of hay all night, which worried me a little bit, but overall, she looked better.

The light splotches on her side are shavings from her bedding last night. She slept comfy.

It was a pretty, sunny day and she made a beeline for the pasture and immediately went head-down and grazing which was a good thing to see.

So, we came back to the barn tonight for milking. At 5 p.m., it’s pretty much dusk here, and Dave didn’t realize that I hadn’t brought her in yet, so he dumped the two little boys’ grain in the feeder, opened the gate and Frances came barreling in with them, literally knocked them out of the way and ate all their grain.

She ate all the little boys’ grain and pushed them out of the way to do it.

I fixed her ass, though.

I simply removed an equivalent amount from her dinner pail and dared her to complain, and Dave fed the boys again.

She doesn’t have the slightest idea. She thinks she got away with it.

Keep in mind that Frances gets 12 cans (about one pound each) of grain a day, six at each milking.  The two little boys get one can daily each.  One can.  And she took that from them, and they are babies.

Do you understand why she refuses to look at the camera?

Shame.

I regret to inform you that we have realized that Frances is a Republican.  A Republican who feels a whole hell of a lot better than she did at this time last night.

The Magic Paddle

A while back, I was involved in an incident with seven year-old bull calves.

There they are, photos made a day or so after the incident occurred.  All seven were sold to the dairy not long afterwards and all of them were purchased by a very large dairy in Missouri and have gone to live there.

Our bull calves remain intact (we don’t castrate them). They are all registered Jerseys, and carry pretty nice pedigrees, so they are typically used for several years for breeding.

I posted something about it, along with the top photo, on Facebook when it happened.

The guy on the far left (in the upper photo) and in the foreground (in the lower photo) is Frances’ calf.

Anyway, when I posted an account of what happened, I found it a little bit astonishing that Cathy Harris decided the story was not only hilarious but also total bullshit and she has derided me for it ever since.

The reason I find this interesting is that she insists that not only did she grow up living on an active dairy farm (she did) but also that Cleo forced her to do all the milking and clean-up every morning before school.

See what I mean?

I doubted the veracity of this story the first time I read it, for several reasons.

First, dairy cows are expensive.  Cleo was a tightwad.  If a cow is not milked properly, she is very likely to come down with mastitis.  It’s expensive to treat and sometimes impossible to cure.  Nobody would ever entrust the milking of an entire dairy to a sixth-grade child.

On some farms, children help with chores, and it’s entirely possible that people allow their young children to do basic milking with a machine, but not without supervision.

Even if the dairy is fully automated like our dairy is, milk handling is an exacting chore.  If it’s not handled correctly and it gets contaminated, the somatic cell count of the milk climbs up and then when the processing plant truck comes and tests the milk (and they do test it every time they come), they won’t accept it and all the milk has to be dumped.  In the case of our dairy, that’s 500 gallons.

She is wanting us to believe that a woman who was aware of every penny being spent on her farm was willing to allow many thousands of dollars worth of dairy cattle to be cared for by a sixth-grader, including their feeding, cleaning their teats prior to milking, drying those teats off properly, attaching the milking machine, terminating the process at the right time, applying teat dip to each teat, getting the cow out of the stanchion and another in her place, handling all the milk (hundreds of gallons) if it didn’t go directly into the tank and finally cleaning all the equipment.

But there’s something else. Cathy makes it clear here that she had to do all the chores. She had to feed and care for all the animals.

Let me tell you what you have to take care of on a dairy farm in addition to the cows.

Calves.

Calves are a normal by-product of dairy production.  A dairy cow’s normal cycle is to lactate for about 10 months, be dried off for two months, calve, and be back lactating again for ten more months.  One calf every year.

Frances goes a little longer than that, but that’s because we aren’t pushing her to make the most milk possible in the shortest time possible.

Lactation starts right after calving with a bang.  Lots of milk.  Production generally peaks within a couple of weeks of calving and then starts a long, slow decline for the next ten months.

Some cows dry themselves off naturally at about ten months.  Others, including Frances, can go a good bit longer than that.  I think the longest we’ve ever had Frances lactate continuously was 14 or 15 months, and she could have gone on longer. We had to dry her off.  However, by that time, even she was only producing about 2 gallons of milk a day, instead of her peak which is six.

At any rate, this means that if you have a small dairy like the one near here, and probably similar to Cleo’s, you have about 70 to 100 cows being milked at any one time.

They are nearly all pregnant.

All the time.

That means that a dairy that size is having a calf born on average of once a week.

Sometimes they come in bunches.  Sometimes there are short spells with no calves being born. But it doesn’t last long.

And each calf has to be bottle fed for weeks and weeks.

Most dairies do exactly what our little dairy does and gets rid of the young bull calves.  They generally sell them when they are about 4 days old (that’s enough time for the calf to get that all-important colostrum).  People often buy them to raise as steers for beef.

But dairies keep the little heifers.  That’s how they replace their cows.

So, a dairy always has at least three pastures.  One for the current milking cows.  One for the dry cows.  And one for the young heifers, being raised as replacements.  Usually, that heifer area has to be subdivided somehow, because calves need to be reasonably close to the same size or the bigger ones bully the littler ones.

I’ve never heard of any dairy that does it any differently.

So that means that Cathy was feeding the calves.

She was feeding calves.

And she doesn’t understand basic calf behavior.

I told Jason about the incident involving those bull calves and he knew what I was talking about immediately.  His first suggestion was to get a paddle.

We didn’t know what that was. He didn’t know we didn’t know. He was raised milking cows and he thought everyone knew.

But Cathy had no idea what I was talking about.  She assumed that the calves were “chasing” me. That’s because she never hung around cows very much and didn’t know that they typically don’t chase people. She’s just read stories and thinks they do.  Because our babies are intact bulls, she thought immediately of the stories she’s heard about grown bulls in herds going after people.  That’s not how our bull calves behave.

Her assumptions were exactly those one would expect from somebody who has never milked a cow in her life or handled a bottle calf or dealt with them at all.

The video below includes an appearance from the very famous Frances toward the end.  She continues to bitch about royalties.

UPDATE:

1. I talk about whatever I wish on this blog.  Not what you wish, Karen.  I wished to talk about my magic paddle, so there it is.  If you find dairy-farm dynamics so incredibly boring, I suggest you quit lurking about here.

2. At no point have I ever implied that Cleo is my “hero.”  I didn’t know the woman. She seems like a crusty sort.  I’m not sure I would have liked her much, especially with all the Jesus stuff.

3. And yes, you and Cathy have used the “impossible task” defense before. I know that.  It doesn’t work, though. The problem is that Cathy implies in what she has written that this demand that she do all the farm chores, including caring for the dairy portion of it, went on for quite some time.

And she couldn’t have done it even once. Not one single time.

My point here is that her complete ignorance about bovine behavior tells me that she never did any farm chores to amount to anything. She lived there, yes, and it was a working dairy farm to some extent. But she didn’t do anything up close and personal with those cattle.  I know it. She knows it. You don’t know it because you have no experience with cattle either and so you just believe whatever she says.

Even if Cathy had never had to do all the chores herself, as she claims, and even if she had always had help, if she had even spent a small amount of time paying attention to what they were doing, she would have known immediately what I was talking about when I described what those calves did.  Everyone else I’ve ever talked to about it that had any farm experience at all knew exactly what happened.

She didn’t. What she didn’t know shows me the lie.

By the way, when did Frank get out of Facebook jail or the mental institution, whichever it was?

Cleaning the Milker

A reader asked me to go over my procedure for cleaning our milking machine, so I am going to do that.  So few people use small milking machines today (for one or two cows) that it’s actually sort of hard to find information about how to clean them.

To refresh, this is our milking machine.

That’s an older photo. The motor (on the left) now lives permanently mounted in the barn, but we do still use the yellow cart and haul the rest of the stuff, including the bucket and milker, from the house to the barn and back, twice a day.

I am usually the draft horse, but Dave was doing so on that particular day.

Cleaning everything begins with cleaning Frances.  The larger white bucket in the cart contains warm water with a little dish detergent and a splash of Clorox along with a sponge.  I toss the sponge about once a week and get a new one.  All that is for cleaning her.  In addition, there is a clean dry cloth, a fresh one every milking, that I use to dry her teats thoroughly. I don’t want any wash water getting in the milk.

The dairy, where they milk between 80 and 90 cows twice every day, has a spray system to clean the cow’s udder, and then Jason uses paper towels to dry her off.

To learn to do this, I went down to the dairy and watched him work, and then adapted what he does to my own limited circumstances. He has the high tech stuff. I do low tech.

When I’m finished milking Frances and remove the inflations from her teats, I spray her teats well with teat dip.  Teat dip is expensive. It’s also relatively hard to find in smaller quantities. I finally looked carefully at the label on the teat dip that Jason uses (the dairy buys it in fifty gallon containers), got the ingredients, and then went online to see if I could find somebody who’d figured out the ingredient ratio.

Here’s the recipe:

1 cup 2% chlorhexidine

1/4 cup glycerine

water to fill 1 quart jar

A gallon of chlorhexidine (about $20) and a pint of glycerine (about $6) will make enough teat dip for my one cow for a couple of years. So making it myself saves me a tremendous amount of money and makes teat dip a negligible expense.  Because it’s so cheap to make, I’m not tempted to skimp on it. I keep it in a spray bottle and use it liberally.

After milking and bottle feeding babies, we haul the cart back to the house. If there is any milk left in the bucket, I strain that (using one of those permanent coffee filters) into glass gallon jars.

This milk has been sitting in the refrigerator for a day or two, which is why you can see the cream which has risen to the surface. It’s the only photo I had, and we’re not milking right now, so I couldn’t take a new one.

But those jars are what we store milk in.  We have a refrigerator in the basement just for that purpose. I can store  9 gallons in there.

After handling the milk, I rinse out the bucket and take both the bucket and the milker back to the laundry tub where they live. While passing through the kitchen, I flip the burner on under a tea kettle half-filled with water.

Jason has a fancy inflation/tubing cleaning system at the barn.  I don’t have such a thing.  They exist for home use, but they’re expensive and you have to have a vacuum motor like the one we have in the barn to use one, which would add about $500 to the cost.

The principle is that you want to put hot water and detergent through the milker to clean it.  To do that, you need to have the inflations upright.

I asked Dave one day, after struggling to keep them upright, if he could figure out a way to hang the claw so that the inflations stayed upright. He solved the problem in about two minutes.  His comment was “Try this and I’ll make something more permanent after we tweak it.”  That was about six years ago. Those are the same two coathangers.

All he did was cut a wire coathanger along the bottom, bend the ends to fit around the inflations (see the red arrows) so they would hook in place and put a hook under the counter.  It works perfectly and cost nothing.

But you also need to force water through the milker and I don’t have it hooked to a pump.  So Dave got me a garden hose and sprayer.  That is cold water.

I begin by using the sprayer to force cold water through each inflation, one at a time.

I then use my thumb to block off the tubing at the far end, and do it again. This makes the water flow in reverse, and it comes out the inflations.  I had to practice a little bit to figure out how to do that, but it works.

Then I grab the dish detergent. They make special milking machine detergents but I decided to try the plain stuff first and see if I had any problems. I’ve had none.  Milk keeps for several weeks in my frig, so I must be doing something right.

I put exactly one drop of detergent in each inflation, and an additional drop in the bucket, which is sitting on the floor beside me.

Then I get the now-boiling tea kettle. The industry standard is to use water that is at least 160 degrees to clean milking equipment. Obviously, hot water from the tap won’t suffice, so I use a kettle. My inflations and tubing are made of silicone, so they are impervious to boiling water. If they were rubber as most of them are, I’d probably go with slightly cooler water, closer to that 160 degree standard. I do exactly what I did with the hose and sprayer, only backward.

I put my thumb over the end of the tubing and pour boiling water down one inflation until it comes back out the others, and then change to a different inflation (to back wash the first one).  If I wait and do that at the end, I will burn my thumb.

Then I pour boiling water down each inflation in turn, letting the hot water drain out the tubing.  I use the entire half kettle of water, reserving just a cup or two which I pour into the bucket.

I repeat the whole process with the cold water sprayer one more time and hang the milker up to dry.

The white bucket isn’t in the laundry tub yet.  That photo is “after.”

But you can see how the milker hangs. That is where it lives.

At this point, I put the bucket in the tub (it fits nicely even with the milker hanging there) and scrub it using the burgundy-and-white brush you see hanging there. That brush is never used for any other purpose.  Remember, I’d put a drop of detergent and hot water in the bucket earlier, so I just scrub with that.

Then I dump that soapy hot water into the white wash bucket, and rinse out the milk bucket.  It lives on a shelf on the opposite side of the laundry room.

I wash out the little white udder-washing bucket, get a new sponge if necessary and it stays right there until it’s needed again.

And finally, I clean the lid and the pulsator.

See Minnie?  She wanted to be in the photo.

There is a gasket in the lid. The entire thing gets covered with milk.  It comes apart.

I wash both pieces just like I’d wash any other dishes in the kitchen.  Hot soapy water and a good rinse and they go back on the shelf above the laundry tub.

The pulsator comes apart.  They’re all different, but they all come apart.  The blue thing, which is the pulsator itself, cannot be submerged and doesn’t get milk in it, so I clean the exterior of it and that’s all.  The black rubber part comes apart as you can see.

You can also see the white crud that forms on it.  That’s milk.  It dries and you have to get it off. All three of those pieces can be submerged in hot water and scrubbed.

This is a handy little brush that was made just for cleaning.  Here’s something similar.

It gets in all the little crevices.

About once every couple of weeks, I break down the claw and clean it well.

The green part, which is clear plastic, is screwed onto the red part, which is stainless steel. They unscrew, and then I can use the little brush to scrub that. The narrow end of the brush fits down in the holes coming from the inflations. There is a gasket in the plastic part where it screws onto the metal part, and I remove that and scrub it well too.

This is a little bit of a PITA but doesn’t have to be done but about once a week or even two weeks.

I also scrub out the laundry tub itself every few days with Clorox.

I once timed myself cleaning the milker.  I already had a tea kettle boiling (sometimes I manage to be organized and heat the water before going to the barn). From the time I walked in the door, to the time I was done with the last step took exactly 8 minutes.

It takes a whole lot longer to describe it than it does to do it. And I wasn’t that fast in the beginning, of course.

Considering that it takes less than 10 minutes to milk Frances, and then about 8 minutes to clean the machine, it’s a huge improvement. I used to spend about 45 minutes milking before we got the machine.

And finally, this is not the only way to do this. It’s the way that works for me. Some people put the milker in a bucket and use a vacuum motor and suck water through the milker.  That would work if I had an outdoor setup. Some people splurge and get the automatic thing. Some people have a milk room set up in their barn.  One woman did an elaborate automatic setup in her kitchen.  I used to lay the milker and tubing on a towel-covered shelf before I decided to just hang it.

The cleaner it all is, of course, the better. Milk will last longer in the refrigerator. The cow will be healthier and not so prone to mastitis.

Here’s a Youtube video of a woman cleaning a goat milking machine (only two inflations). She’s using the moter/bucket method.  Maybe I’m entirely too fastidious, but I cringe at all that equipment in that shed/garage.  My laundry tub is not used for anything except my milker and the milker lives in the house where barn dust does not accumulate.

Here’s one that is better. At least she has a dedicated room away from the barn area to hang the milker.

 

 

 

 

 

Herds

francescalvesinfield

Frances, in the back looking at the camera.  Her own calf, in the foreground looking at the camera.  And a few of the other calves, hanging out.

We have total of ten bull calves at the moment, although only seven are out in the field with Frances.

They are her herd.  She’s Boss Cow. She loves it.  She does not want to be a mother after the first hour or so, but she loves, loves, loves having her boys later on when they are weaned.

It’s an instinct. She can’t help it.

Cattle are prey animals. They tend to herd up because there is safety in numbers.

Predators pick off the weak and vulnerable members of the herd.  They go after whoever is lagging behind, or whoever is older or younger and can’t keep up.  There is safety in staying in the middle, with the pack.

But you know what?  That’s not just a tiny herd of cattle in that photo. Those are all individuals.  Frances is obvious.  Her calf is obvious to me because I know what he looks like. He and all the others have ear tags. On those tags is information that tells us who they are (actually, who their dam is) so that when they go to the dairy, their papers can be properly filled out (these are all registered Jerseys).

Furthermore, each one of them has a personality.  Frances’ calf is friendlier, and we have to sort of shun him at this point because you don’t want a Jersey bull calf to be friendly.  He’ll start considering himself a human and that’s how farmers get killed.

There’s one little guy out there we call Houdini.  He managed to get out of his pen and into the paddock with the bigger calves one day. He had a wonderful time, but scared the shit out of us when we couldn’t find him.  He’s curious as hell and a total pain in the ass.

Those calves are all individuals.

And so are “trolls.”

All the critics, every single one, are individuals with different levels of interest in various things, with different experiences.

If you made a set of all the people who have ever criticized the Naugler parents, it would contain a whole lot of people.  Hundreds and hundreds of people.

Then you have the set of all the people who the Nauglers have pissed off, wronged, insulted, cheated or otherwise alienated, and that’s another huge set of people.

Some of those people criticized them once or twice online, failed for some reason to catch Nicole or Joe’s eye, and moved on about 18 months ago, having never looked at the story again.

Others fell in the rabbit hole and have never climbed back out. (I’m raising my hand here.)

Probably most people in that set fall someplace in the middle.

Some have had personal experience at the hands of either Joe or Nicole, personal negative experience, and have come by their enmity that way. Others have interacted with them online and been put off by that. And still others just find the whole debacle interesting as hell and can’t look away.

Nicole and Joe lump us all together. I know I’ve said this often, but I get very tired of it.  I am not a Siamese twin to Lisa.  I am not Al’s puppet.  None of us agree all the time about anything.

Some of the “trolls” are liberals, like me. Some are very conservative. Some have never said what they think about politics so I have no idea. Some are religious. Others are not.  Some are vehemently critical and like to rant and rave about it (often a bit too much from my point of view).  Still others are way more generous (often a bit too much from where I’m sitting).

Some of the “trolls” are very active. Others sit back quietly and watch. Most are in-between.

Nicole and Joe claim that somehow “the trolls” encompass one monolithic group that moves like a school of fish.  One group, with one purpose, moving in sync.

It’s not like that, of course. Life is never like that.

But we’re sort of a herd, in a way. A community has built up around this subject, something like the community that has built up around the subject of, say, cloth diapers, or making ukuleles.  You can find an online group or groups encompassing any subject you can imagine.  I bet everyone reading this has made friends online because of all sorts of different things, from music to knitting to political activism.

We’re a herd in the way that those calves are a herd. Notice in the photo that they aren’t in any particular position. They are facing every which way.  Some are looking at the camera. Others are ignoring it. And there are two calves who were someplace else when the photograph was taken.  What they have in common is that they are all Jersey bull calves (except Frances who is a cow).

Nobody tells anyone else what to write. Nobody dictates which pages do what, or even what page exists or how it’s run or anything even remotely resembling that. I’ve made it abundantly clear that I object to much of what occurs on Facebook and that’s why I don’t participate there.  But that doesn’t mean that anyone else has to listen to me or react to what I say, and they don’t.

What we have in common, and the only thing we have in common, is that for one reason or another, we’re following the Naugler saga, the one the Naugler parents have chosen to advertise and promulgate online widely and publicly.  Period.

We band together, disparate though we are, in very large part because prey animals have an instinct to do that.  There is safety in numbers, and there are predators out there.

Why Frances Doesn’t Get a Hickey

When we bought Frances, she was already in milk. We got her in February, 2011. She’d had her first calf the previous October.  She was not giving enough milk to make the dairy happy enough to keep her and they constantly have to cull the lower-producing cows to make space for the new young ones coming on, so we lucked out.  She simply needed some time to mature.  She regularly milks almost as well as any dairy cow anywhere now (and we don’t push her with lots of silage like they do).

I had a bucket to milk in.  A stainless steel bucket, a stool to sit on, and my two hands.  I already knew how to milk, but it was challenging to develop those muscles again.

To milk a cow by hand, you squeeze the teat while simultaneously pinching off the top so that the milk comes out and doesn’t go back up into the cow’s udder. It takes a little practice to figure out the exact motion involved.

Then you repeat that approximately 4000 times.  I am not exaggerating.  A cow has one udder which is divided internally into four quarters. Each quarter has a teat.

udder anatomy
click image to link to source

See how the teat opening narrows up at the base of the udder?  That’s the part you need to pinch off when milking by hand and then you squeeze and push the milk out the hole at the bottom.

The milk is created in lobes which are all over the udder and filled with alveoli. Alveoli are just little sacs.  Milk is created in them and held there until let-down occurs.  Let-down is hormonal, and happens when the cow (or human or cat or elephant) is stimulated either by her offspring or something else and the milk is released from all those bazillion alveoli and travels down the ducts to the cistern which is located just above the teat.

I can watch Frances go into let-down.  Her udder at the bottom where the teats are visibly increases in size.  She is triggered by getting in the stanchion and having her teats cleaned with warm water.

So, each quarter has to be milked out separately. They don’t connect anywhere.  Two hands, squeezing over and over and over again, two teats at a time.

Milking Frances by hand used to take me anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. She was more or less patient about it, but clearly wondered what in the hell was wrong with her people since the dairy didn’t have to take nearly so long to do the same damn thing.  And I developed some serious muscles in my forearms and hands.

I did it for two years, finishing out the lactation period she was in when we got her, and all through the next one.

And then she calved for a third time. Remember, she was maturing all this time, gaining udder capacity and body size.  When she calved that third time, her udder was simply enormous.  She had a lot of swelling (immediately after birth, that’s common but she had more than normal. We ended up treating it with steroids) and I literally could not reach the teats on the far side of her.

Dave helped me milk her out at first. He would milk one side and I’d do the other.  One solid hour, twice a day.

It didn’t take too many of those sessions before I was online buying a milking machine.

I was a total clueless newbie. I had no idea how they worked, where to buy one, nothing.

The dairy, of course, has an elaborate system involving all sorts of glass tubing everywhere, but has eight separate milking stanchions. Jason brings in four cows at a time on one side of the parlor, gets them all ready, hooks them up, and then while they are milking, he brings in four on the other side, and gets them prepared. Back and forth he goes, milking a total of about 85 cows twice a day.

I needed something to milk one.

delavalold
click image to link to source

This is an old one. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

The whole thing was invented by Dr. Gustaf De Laval, and finally brought to the wider market around the beginning of the twentieth century.  DeLaval milkers are still an industry standard and that is what I have.

milkingcartThere’s my machine on the right.  To the left is the motor which now resides permanently in the barn.

But the milker itself consists of several parts.

The stainless steel bucket holds the milk.  I have two of them, one small for when she’s kind of waning in production, and another much larger for when she first calves. The lid fits either one.

On the lid is a blue thing called a pulsator.

pulsator

Here is it.  There is a black orifice at the left back in the photo.  That one connects with tubing to the vacuum pump. The round black rubber base seats into a hole in the bucket lid.

There are two blue orifices in the front.  One we don’t use, so it’s blocked with a yellow stopped. The other connects with tubing to the claw.

clawThat’s a claw. You can see mine in the cart photo above, hooked to the lid of the bucket.

Here’s a close up of mine.

clawmine

There are two tubes coming from/to the claw. The small tube (coming from the black thing) goes to the pulsator.  The larger tube coming from the plastic part of the claw goes directly to the bucket.

There are four things coming out of the claw. The blue/silver things are called inflations.

inflationsHere is what they look like. The blue stuff is silicone.  You can also buy them in black rubber. Silicone costs about four times as much but lasts much, much longer (like years and years).  Silicone also is impervious to heat and cold, which means that it doesn’t get stiff or even feel cold in winter, and I can clean them with boiling water without damaging them.

The blue silicone insert attaches to the claw on the bottom end and fits on the cow’s teat at the top.

The stainless steel shell serves two purposes.  It keeps the silicone or rubber inflation stiff and it also makes the milking machine work.

Notice the little thing sticking out of the side of the shell?

If you look back up at the photo, you’ll see that there is a black rubber tube going from the shell to the bottom of the claw.

Everything in black is connected and it all goes back to the pulsator.

And here’s where hickeys come in.

hickeyphoto

You get a hickey when suction is applied to your skin for a long time.  It pops blood vessels.

So why don’t nursing mothers typically get them?

They don’t because babies don’t suck unremittingly. They suck to get milk, sort of like you’d suck through a straw.  It’s a pulsating suction. It’s not steady.

Because it’s not steady, the tiny blood vessels in the tissue don’t pop and there’s no bruise there. No hickey.

Consider this.

ezmilker
click image to link to source

This is an EZ Milker. As you can imagine, it costs a whole lot less than my DeLaval milking machine.  For a cow, the EZ Milker is $189.  My milking machine was about $1000.

The EZ Milker is not designed to be used as a milker all the time. It’s designed to be used as a one-time deal, to store some colostrum, or to milk out a quarter that has mastitis and is hard to do by hand.

It’s a steady-vacuum milker. It has a hand-held trigger-style pump that you use to create the vacuum.

I wouldn’t have one here if it was given to me.  They are, in my personal opinion, dangerous if used all the time.  Cow’s teats are not made to withstand that kind of constant suction.

So what does my milking machine do, for $800, that the EZ does not?

It pulses.

What happens is that suction is applied via the vacuum pump to the bucket and the pulsator.  There is suction pulling the milk out of the teat and into the claw where it collects in the clear plastic reservoir and then is sucked into the bucket.

But the pulsator is not sitting there doing nothing.

The pulsator is pulsing.  It has a mechanism in it that is spring-operated that releases the vacuum approximately once per second  in the space between the stainless steel shell and the blue silicone liner. That liner, which of course is pliable, moves back and forth inside the shell, alternating pressure on the teat.

It imitates a calf sucking.  It makes a loud ticking sound as it works. And if it doesn’t work, the whole machine quits.  No milk, of course, enters the pulsator. It only affects the vacuum created.

Dr. DeLaval was, of course, a genius.  He managed to create this wonderful machine that works as long as you have a vacuum. They have even made versions that can be powered by somebody riding a stationary bicycle (for use in third-world nations).

Here’s our friend, Jason, milking at the local dairy where Frances was born.  This is an all-Jersey dairy milking about 85 cows daily.

You can see that each milking claw has dual tubing running to it, one is clear (that’s the vacuum tubing) and one has milk in it. The milk goes into the large glass container and then is emptied via suction into a large refrigerated vat in an adjacent room.

The young heifer who enters the milking parlor is new and doesn’t quite have the routine down, so Jason has to nudge her a little bit.  He knows every single cow. He can tell you her calving history, her health record, and her milking stats, and he recognizes them pretty much by their udders.

Between milkings, that entire parlor is hosed down with disinfectant. The machine itself has an elaborate automatic cleaning system.

CleaningMilker

I have a couple of coat hangers in my laundry room tub.

And a happy cow.