Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Milking Time

"Come on, Towser, time to round up these cows."

Not that they needed much rounding up as, by 3 o'clock in the afternoon most of them would be standing, waiting patiently for the gate to be opened to let them out of their paddock (field).

Our herd never numbered more than about 85 cows, very small by today's standards, but then it was only a 100 acre farm. Imagine being able to raise seven children on a farm that size today, without income from an additional source.

On the move....

.... and into the cowyard.

All of the cows had names (usually girls' names) and although I can remember many of the names, I can't place them in these photos.

This is the diesal engine that powered the milking machines and charged the batteries for the 32 volt power plant. It was later replaced by an electric motor when the State Electricity Commission connected the 240 volt power to the house and shed. This engine, with its mass of flywheels and belts had to be crank started, and there was a real knack to it, too. On cold winter mornings it had to be primed with warm oil before it would kick over.

Due to health problems, Dad was unable to start the engine for several years, which meant that I had to be there for every milking to start the engine. I think my sisters learned to start it after I got married and left home, although we did have a share-farmer working for us by then.

The shed could accommodate 6 cows at a time, one against each end wall and two either side of those steel 'fences' in the middle. This photo is taken from the yard in front of the shed where the cows waited to be let in to the shed.

(I described in my posting 'The Personalities of Cows' how some cows wanted to be milked first and others last, some would only go into a specific bail, and how so many of them had their own personality traits and idiosyncrasies.)

It looks like the first six are under way, with Annette leaning on the gate at far right waiting for the first one to finish. As each cow finished milking, the teat cups were removed, dipped into a bucket of water and disinfectant and hung on a hook to await the next cow. At the turn of a handle a gate opened beside the cow and she walked forwards (after the legrope was and out through a passageway into another yard at the side of the shed. The gate was closed and the next cow brought in.

The blue buckets contain warm, soapy water to wash the cow's udder, firstly to ensure that it is clean and secondly to encourage the cow to let down her milk.

I'm sorry about the quality of this photo but I think it's the only one I have. As the cow is being milked by machines, which are held on to her udder by a vacuum, the milk is then carried through overhead pipes into the dairy.

Here you can just see towards the top of the photo the milk being released into the stainless steel vat. It then runs through two strainers onto the cooler which is like a series of horizontal pipes joined together. As the milk flows down over the pipes it is cooled by the cold water pumping continuously through them. It flows down onto a tray with three holes, beneath which are twelve gallon milk cans.

At the end of milking a truck would come to collect all of the milk from a number of farms and take it to the factory about 15 miles away, where some of the milk was sent as fresh milk to Melbourne, and the rest was processed into butter, cheese, casein and other dried milk products.

When all of the cows were finished, buckets of cold water followed by hot water and disinfectant were pumped through the machines to clean them, all of the equipment in the dairy was scrubbed, the shed floor was swept and sluiced with water, the cowpats were shovelled up from the yard and it was hosed clean with water.

Now you must understand that this was more than 40 years ago, and this method of milk collection, ie. using small milk cans, was being phased out even then. Refrigerated vats were being installed which meant that the milk could be collected by tanker at any time of day or night. In summer it was usually once a day but in winter it was on alternate days. The fact that farmers no longer had to milk at a certain time in order to be ready for the milk truck took a lot of the pressure off and made life a bit easier. We never did install a refrigerated vat, as only two or three years after these photos were taken, Dad gave up dairying and changed over entirely to beef cattle.

(Rita, Lorna and Annette, or even Colin, please feel free to correct me on anything in this posting. You know what my memory is like!)


Suzanne said...

Some of my best memories are of my youth, spending time with my Grandfather during the summers. We would always go to the dairy farm and get our milk fresh from a system that looked just like that. When we got home, we'd have to pour the top cup and a half off, (that was the cream that rose to the top) and we would use it later on our homemade blackberry cobbler. ahhhhh. I love that kind of milk.

Anonymous said...

The photographs and information are very interesting. I like the milk churns. The cows look lovely are they freisians and limousins? What breed did you have when you got beef cattle?
Sara from farmingfriends

Joni said...

Oh how cool I love seeing your old milking photos! I also love to see multicolored cows in the photos! It looked like you and your sister were naturals!

Kerri said...

The hills are so pretty in that second shot...and of course the girls are gorgeous :)
Yes, they didn't need much rounding up, most of the time. When ours were on rotational grazing and the grass was good, sometimes they just laid around lazily and thumbed their noses at us :) They gave us plenty of exercise walking up to get them.
Thanks for explaining the sequence of events Alice. It's so good to see these pictures!

Carole Burant said...

Such wonderful memories of growing up on a dairy farm! I loved seeing all the pictures and your explanation of how everything certainly was a lot of work wasn't it! One of my nephews (through marriage) took over his parents' farm and turned it into a dairy farm. We were over there a couple of years ago and I was amazed at how electronic it has all become. There's not much "hands on" worked involved in milking a cow these days!!! xox

Jeanette said...

Hi Alice, You have bought back alot of childhood memories here, I used to spend school holidays at My Aunties were we used to help bring the cows in for milking then aunt would send us young ones to deliver the fresh milk in Billies to neighbours, now thats many years ago.

Val said...

This post was a real eye opener, Alice. But as I read this the cow is being milked by machines, which are held on to her udder by a vacuum, I have a newfound admiration for the calmness of cows!

Alice said...

Val - that frightened you, did it? The vacuum is barely noticeable and the insides of the cups, which are rubber, expand and contract to create a very even and gentle suck/squeeze action. Much gentler than many a farmer trying to milk by hand, I'm certain.

Frankie Perussault said...

Hi Alice, ...just stumbled upon your blog and I'm thrilled. I'm a French country girl formerly married to an Australian where I learnt life in Canberra actually in the 60's. Pleased to meet you!!!

Peggy said...

I am so enjoying these trips down memory lane. We had a dairy farm for 17 years and it brings lots of my own memories too.

meggie said...

I can smell the cowshed. I never mineded the smell, & rather liked the gentle cows, who were glad to have their milk taken, for the relief it offered them. And I like sluicing out the shed when it was all done.
Great post.

Everydaythings said...

Alice - we used to have a similar looking dog - a border collie cross who died about 2 years ago - we still miss him terribly! he was called Snowy

LindaD said...

Wonderful memories.. seems like just yesterday, doesn't it? My husband was herdsman on a large Holstein Dairy.. 45 years ago.. They had a milking pit.. and 8 places for the girls.. and he also knew all their names.. what they'd milk.. and where their stanchion in the barn was located. Our girls loved tto go out into the fields to rouse some of them at 3AM to come in for milking in the morning. Thanks.. I love the photos!

Jo's-D-Eyes said...

Hi Alice,
THANKYOU for visiting my blog (august 27th about cows)

Wow what a wonderfull pic's you made, ehhh only 85 cows? I never saw more thn 20 'atthetime' but the land is in holland not as spacy as overthere.I love the dog which is a 'pet' of my heart, also the'notgood' photo's . They give an impression and that exatly what you wanted right?

Do you still have that cows nowadays? I love to read about the shedule and everything about COWS!

Visit my blog anytime , i would like that very much. I like your blog also and I am interseted in your life too.

Greetings , hope to see you back,

:) JoAnn