Dairying Around the Holidays

On a small farm like my in-laws dairy, hiring a hired-hand is a luxury that has never happened. When my father-in-law travels to cow shows and/or sales, it’s generally my hubby, his brother and Pickle, who help out. Milking, carrying milk, feeding calves, cleaning stalls, cleaning and sanitizing the equipment are just a few of the activities which occur on the farm twice daily, 365 days a year. This can be very hard on a person. Even more so for my in-laws.

Most dairy farms have a parlor where the cows walk in, the milker is attached, the cow is milked, the milker removed and then the cow exits. All of the milk is pumped through a pipeline directly to the bulk tank which stores and cools the milk until its picked up.

This 80-stand rotary dairy in Northern Tablela...

Image via Wikipedia

The arrangement in my in-law’s barn is how cows were milked long before pipelines and automatic milkers. Each cow has her own stanchion where she is fed and has a milker attached. The milk is then pumped into a milk can. When the cow is milked out the milker comes off of the can and is placed onto an empty can.

The stanchions are comfortable and control disagreements over 'food rights'.

The full can is then carried to the bulk tank, lifted approximately four feet into the air and poured. Sounds simple, easy-peasy, right? Maybe for the first two cows. A Jersey cow on average produces approximately 40 lbs. of milk per milking – depending on the cow.

These are the three milk cans which are used. The one on the far left is a bit larger than the other two and is used for the higher producing cows.

The entire process is labor intensive but ensures high-quality milk and care, as each cow is given one-on-one attention during this time. My father-in-law looks at the overall health of the cow, the amount of milk she gave and how she ate. Very much like I do when feeding my own kids.

Its been a couple of years but we enjoy jumping into the truck and spending the early part of Christmas Day in the barn, helping milk and do chores. It gives my in-laws a little break and creates some nice holiday memories…even if it means the kids have to wait to open presents.

We will be celebrating our Thanksgiving today. This celebration will completely revolve around the cow’s schedule. They are our Dairy Queens and treated as such!

When does your family celebrate during the holidays?


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