Sunday, 12 December 2010
Milking cows - an expose...
Despite the 3:30am starts and my fingers being so swollen now that I can no longer wear my wedding ring there's something enjoyable about it. It's not the fact I'm groping cow's teets all day that does it, I think it is because it is like squeezing a stress ball for 5 hours a day.
I may wake up barely able to move my fingers in the morning, but when the first cow comes mooing to me and the milk starts flowing I soon forget the pain. I've managed to beat my four a day habit and am now managing to milk 14 a day without any problems. The most I've managed in two hours was nine and a half (for some reason they didn't want me to finish the last one all by myself - it was probably because I was starting to look like Ozzy Osbourne with my DT) - they seemed impressed with that.
Contrary to what I believed before I had ever milked a cow, it is not simply moving your hand up and down which produces a torrent of white liquid, it is more of a clenching motion. Imagine rolling your fingers down at each joint and then pressing into the palm of your hand as hard as possible whilst moving up and down. It is something like this. You can feel your triceps tense with each squeeze, and the tendons in your wrists start to ache as the morning or afternoon goes on.
Mind you not all cows are equal. There are a wide variety of different teets, some are long and thin (usually very easy), some are small and thin (ridiculously difficult especially if you have big hands), some are thick and long (a little bit tough, but not too bad - the downside is you usually end up with blisters on your index fingers), and those that are thick and small (once again extremely difficult). The amount of cows with superfluous nipples when compared to humans is quite astonishing. It is not unusual for them to have more five or six teets sometimes. Obviously these teets don't work and are generally just there to throw you off your stroke (so to speak you filthy minded individuals). Some of the teets produce a constant flow of frothy milk that comes up and splashes you in the face when it hits the bucket while others produce a fine stream of the white stuff which leaves you straining over the bucket for a good half an hour. Some are tough to milk and others aren't - you can rarely tell before you get a grip on them.
But in general cows are nice creatures anyway (not their ugly male counterparts however). It always reminds me a little of hometime at a boarding school when I head down to the milking pen as the Bezerros (baby cows - amended spelling to be correct now...) are kept separately all day and this is the only time they get to see their mums. The mums enter the pen (with a bit of coercion and Michael Jackson) and after they have chilled out a bit start to moo to their children. I've realised that they've got several different kind of moos. There is the more commonly known 'moo' which just seems to be something they do in their own time, there is the grunting 'moo' which seems to be when they are calling for their children, and of course the more sultry 'moo' to try and coax the bull into only having eyes for her. Once we decide to milk a cow we let the bezerro out of its pen and watch it try to find its mother - it generally knows who it is (apart from one cow which tries to feed from every cow much to their annoyance). Once found, we let it suckle a small amount of milk (there's obviously a fine line between feeding the children and letting them drink your profits) before tying a rope around its neck and tying it to its mothers front legs. We then tie up the mother's back legs so she can no longer move. Once this is done she is powerless to stop us having our wicked way with her. The bezerros always call to their mum's. It's quite sweet in a way.
My ability to tie up these hefty heffers is getting better and better. I can tie a slipknot round their ankles and the babies' mouths faster than they can run away from me (just the way I like it). Once I have done the deed and let them run away from me the filthy creatures.
Whilst my opinion of cows has gone up highly through waking up to them every morning, my opinion of chickens has gone down rapidly. I see them every day scrabbling through cow shit and urine eating it and gobbing it down. They're horrible animals.
On the subject of bovine excretions, I am slowly getting used to being covered in cow poo. The worst moments come however when you are tying up their hind legs and you suddenly see their tail lift up in the air. Then you know you're in trouble - you're either going to be on the receiving end of some fecal matter or a golden shower. Not sure which is better. There have been times when I've run away like a girl I must be honest. Every day when I come home Cristina quickly orders me to have a shower and leave my clothes outside. It's odd I can't smell any difference, I'm probably used to being surrounded by it all day.
On average we fill about 500 litres a day by hand three of us milking together day in and day out. Every day I try to beat the amount of cows I did the day before and love to milk those dirty cows more and more. We fill up 50 litre urns through a filter which skins off the cream from the top which we then put in a bowl and give to the cats and dogs - possibly where the phrase 'the cat that got the cream' came from. Maybe not, but it's a nice thought.
At the end of the day to some up my opinions of milking cows:
If there's no shake in your milk you're doing it wrong.