I spent some time in the barn this morning taking with Intern Jake as he hand milked Layla, a Milking Shorthorn. Layla is a big cow with a lot of milk to give, so it’s a considerable job. On a good day, Layla can give nearly four gallons of milk. It usually takes Jake about 45 minutes to finish the job. Add in the time it takes him to sterilize the equipment, get the cow into the stall, put the milk away, and put the cow away, and the whole process requires nearly 2 hours each morning.
“If you’re thinking of getting a cow, you’re going to have to plan to put some time in,” Jake remarked.
Previously, Jake worked on a diversified farm that had a small herd of cows it milked commercially. Using modern milking equipment, Jake was, by himself, able to milk 10 cows in about 2 hours.
Jake told me he hopes to have a farmstead of his own someday, and that vision includes animals. He says he’d probably want one cow and would milk it the old-fashioned way, if for no other reason than that the set-up is much cheaper. Milking Layla by hand, the most significant piece of equipment is a large, stainless steel bucket. A modern milking parlor requires machines of all sorts Jake isn’t sure he’d want to purchase for just one cow.
Besides the milk and other dairy products, Jake sees a lot of additional value in keeping a cow. They mow the grass, provide manure, and provide baby cows as well. Jake has an idea he might use oxen for some jobs on the farm.
After milking was finished, I followed the milk bale down to the Howell Farm “milk house,” which is the kitchen of the old schoolhouse. Jake poured the milk through a filter, weighed it, recorded the results in a ledger book, and then deposited it in the refrigerator.
Elsewhere in the kitchen, the making of feta cheese was underway, using a new recipe. Farmer Rob tasted the results of his trial and reported that the recipe still wasn’t perfect, and would require some modification to make it a little more, but not too much, like the old recipe.