Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Yes you can milk your cows in a half an hour.
I have a micro dairy in Royalton, Vermont. It ties four cows and can accommodate a calf or two. Right now I am milking two cows and I have a dry cow due anytime. This morning I was a little late in getting to the barn to do the morning milking. But I got my cows into the barn, milked them and turned back out in less than 20 minutes. The barn was clean and the milking equipment was cleaning itself as I headed back down to the house to make my breakfast and then head off to work. I won't return to the barn until 6 or 6:30 PM this afternoon/evening to milk my cows again. Maybe my third cow will have calved by then.
How quickly someone can milk their critters and do their barn chores depends upon how their barn is set up and equipped and how efficient their routines are. Time is money and money is time. If I value my time at $20 an hour (at age 64 I hope that is a fair value in today's labor market) then every hour I save is $20 in my pocket. Back in the day, dairy farmers were encouraged not to value their time at all. So if it took a half a day to clean up your milking equipment so what?? If it took a half a day to do your barn chores, so what?? If it took you half a day to repair a $5 hand tool then so what?? You saved yourself $5 because your time is worth nothing. For me those days are long gone.
I am into accomplishing things, not ritualistic drudgery. When I equipped my barn I decided it was well worth investing in a small pipeline. Years ago I milked cows with bucket milkers. Not only was it hard work lugging the milk around, but cleaning the four buckets and claws by hand took forever. Today claw washers are available for bucket milkers and they speed up the cleaning process but it still involves a lot of manual work. My pipeline cleans itself after each milking. It works like a big washing machine. It uses the same amount of detergent that I would use if I washed buckets by hand and it probably uses a bit more hot water and electricity to run the vacuum pump but to me the time saved has significant value. It saves me at least an hour of my time a day. At $20 an hour that adds up to be $140 per week or $7,280 per year. I had my pipeline paid for in less than two years.
I set up my barn so I could tie up four cows and milk two at a time with two milking units. I could milk all four at a time if I wanted to invest in two more units. But personally I don't believe it would be worth it. I use the time my cows are milking to do my barn chores so milking four cows with two units gives me the time I need to get things done.
To speed up my routine my pastures and run-in shed are configured so that the cows are usually right at the barn at milking time. Sometimes they lose track of time and are still busy grazing in the pasture when I get to the barn. But I can call them and they will walk into the barn as I prep it for milking. I never have to chase them. I can lead them all by their collars.
During the winter I clean my barn by hand when the cows are in at night and much of the day. The barn's gutter is 16" long and I have to clean the gutter at least once per day. The cows produce 100 pounds of manure per day, enough to fill the wheelbarrow two or three times each cleaning. I dump the manure right outside the barn door on a concrete pad and move it to the compost pile with my compact tractor every three or four days. Oh, sometimes I complain mightily about having to hand shovel the manure into the wheelbarrow but it is cheaper than going to the gym for a workout and it takes less than ten minutes per cleaning.
To see how you can milk your cows in 30 minutes click here:
Steve Judge is a long-time dairy farmer and micro-dairy expert at Bob-White Systems. Driven by a passion for the Slow Food movement and a desire for communities to enjoy locally produced, Steve's goal is to create appropriately scaled dairy technology and equipment that will give small-scale dairy farmers the opportunity to sell safe, farm fresh milk and dairy products directly from their farms to friends and neighbors. Read all of Steve's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.