Great Expectations......of Milking Cows

NTL is over for another year. The annual touch footy carnival takes a fair chunk of time, time away from my beautiful wife and son and away from the farm. I love the boys and the process, but it does take a bit of effort. I think the boys appreciate it, except during ice baths and the 615 am wake up call for the bus trip home, when most of them have barely got home from the night out.

I had dried Laf off a week before NTL. I had always meant to do it at NTL, she has been milking for over two years. I had the new calf and had started training Candy up for the milking bales but still had to buy my first milk in 2 years and the shame nearly killed me. I was expecting very little from Candy. Attempts to get her to feed in the bales had been less than encouraging. At first she wouldn't follow the trail of food into the bales if I was anywhere near and would back out as soon as I came over. Over two weeks I got her to the point where she'd eat in the bales with me sitting on the milking bucket and react sharply if I touched her flank. The one time I put the bar in behind her she did her pole vault impression and went over the front. Did I mention cows love routine? All this work and then away for a week, I was expecting the shame of buying milk to last a while.

Part of my problem is the bales. Cobbled together out of bits of recycled timber before I'd ever milked a cow I then got the measurements wrong and had to put them in upside down. They are crooked, don't have the right head bale to keep her still and are out in the open but when you have little money on a farm like Lantanaland you have to improvise. I need to change the bales around again, because they were set up for Laf and her legs are as twice as long as Candy's.

When I came home it was with no small amount of trepidation that I contemplated the long training that was in front of me. I gloomily walked down the first morning back, contemplating Candy backing out and kicking me as I reached down for her udder. She has always been a wary cow and in contrast to Dolores, who is a puppy in a cows body, hates having her head touched.

I left a trail of hay leading to a bucket of grain. Candy walked in with not even a glance at me sitting at the bales. Head down, bum up. I gave her a few pats and she didn't move. I reached down to her udder and gently had a feel, no flinch, no kick. I squeezed some Lanolin out and tried stripping her teats out. No worries, not much milk but she was completely relaxed about it. I was stunned. Here was a cow that has never been overly friendly and had been very wary of the bales, sitting calmly while I milked her.

I have milked her three times now, not much each time, the calf is still on her and she doesn't want to let her milk down for me. But I'm about three weeks ahead of where I thought I'd be, so I'll take it, hopefully by the weekend I'll be walking straight past the milk fridge again!