Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cow Milking: Trap, Squeeze, Release, Repeat

Since it is the Year of Dairy Cows here at the State Fair, it only seemed appropriate for me to try my hand at milking a cow for the first time.  After watching the celebrity milking contest a few days ago, I became even more determined to make this happen.  So when the State Fair Queen invited me to join her on a cow-milking adventure, I jumped at the opportunity.  

Meet Elsie. Elsie is a Jersey cow born in 2005. I may be biased, but I think Elsie wins the prettiest cow award for the Livestock Nursery residents.  According to dairy farmer Jeff Jehn, Elsie thinks so too.

After Elsie and I got acquainted, I knelt down in the hay next to her and carefully listened to Jeff as he explained the hand-milking process to me. 

“Really, it’s only a matter of trapping the milk at the top with your thumb and index finger, squeezing down with the rest of your fingers, releasing and then repeat,” Jeff said.

Feeling a rush of confidence after his simple instructions, I crouched over, recited the “trap, squeeze, release, repeat” instructions and gave it a whirl.  When I saw the squirt of milk that my first try produced, I nearly squealed with excitement. 

My pride faded away after a minute of milking when I was humbled to see the measly amount of milk at the bottom of my pail.  Elsie can usually fill half a pail with milk, a feat that takes Jeff about 10 minutes to complete by hand and only five minutes with a machine. 

So even though this experience didn’t transform me into a professional dairy farmer, it was still exciting to learn a few tricks of the trade.  Fairgoers can give it a try too at Cowtown USA in the Family Fun Park. Interactive milking demonstrations begin at 9:30 a.m., 12:30, 3 and 6 p.m.

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