With Umpqua Dairy in our own backyard, you may wonder, why milk your own cow? I grew up on store-bought milk in plastic cartons.
When I was a kid, my family tried some raw milk from a neighbor’s farm for a while – it tasted like grass!
So when my husband proposed raising a family milk cow, I was skeptical.
Now in my third year of milking a family cow, I must tell you that there’s nothing like the feeling of growing your own.
I place the suction cups of our surge-milker on Molly’s utter and breathe a sigh of satisfaction as I watch the creamy white liquid full of those beneficial vitamins, minerals, enzymes, probiotics, and proteins, flow through transparent tubes into the five-gallon milk can.
I take in the view out the milk-shed window and enjoy a secluded moment away from the harried stress of motherhood.
Sure, I could get a job and buy the convenience of a pre-packaged, quality-assured commodity.
Or, I can spend 30 minutes, twice a day milking my own cow and cleaning the equipment myself.
The money stays in my pocket, and the yield provides for our family of six, plus some hogs, and a few neighbors.
Amazingly, our milk doesn’t taste like grass! It’s really good!
One of the freedoms we enjoy with the family milk cow is a rather unregimented approach to milking.
A cow should be milked every twelve hours. We keep a 9-ish a.m. to 9-ish p.m. schedule, rather than the traditional 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. routine.
We try to be timely, but we don’t push for peak production. Three gallons a day is plenty, thank you.
My husband’s father grew up on a dairy farm and has told us about calling cows, cleaning equipment, using lime on the parlor floor to keep down flies, cream separators, and production.
My own father grew up on a family farm in the Ozarks, and told us about letting the calf in to finish the milking after the family milked what they needed.
It is telling that both men left their family farms as soon as they were of age and decline to sub for us on the few occasions when we need to miss a milking or two.
We have met many others who milked a family cow or worked on a dairy during their lifetime.
They’re not volunteering to fill in for us either – “been there, done that.”
A neighbor, who has only ever milked our cow, graciously helps out when we’re gone.
I must admit I do feel relieved during the cow’s off-season, the few months before she delivers a new baby and “freshens.”
But I miss the rich creamy raw milk, fresh each morning, which I need not ration between shopping trips.
The homegrown milk in which, within hours, the cream rises to a visible top layer in the half-gallon jars that we sterilize in the oven before using.
The white bounty gives us an excuse to indulge in luxuries like hot cocoa, milk shakes, pudding and clotted cream.
At the end of a milking, our cow Molly (short for “Molasses” signifying her unhurried ambulatory tendencies), like the one in the children’s picture book by Phyllis Root, "Kiss the Cow" (at the Douglas County Library), finishes her feed and turns her head into my face for her kiss of gratitude, too.
Fortunately for me, she is content with a kiss that doesn’t actually contact her nose.
I take in the view out the milk-shed window and enjoy a secluded moment away