What’s the Big Hold-Up?!

August 27th, 2011 by Kim

BoPeep inherited a nice udder from her Jersey momma.

There’s been a hold-up in my milking parlor & I’m sick of it!

This is one of the difficulties that comes with share-milking (that’s when you leave the calf with momma part of the time, so you’re sharing the milk).  Momma decides that she would rather feed baby than give her milk to you, so she “holds up” when you try to milk.  Which means you get a piddlin’ little bit of thin milk and are wondering what happened, while baby guzzles down the bulk of the milk…and all the cream, which comes at the end.  If this is a frustration you’ve been dealing with, believe me….you are not alone!!  Here’s the story of my big hold-up.

A full udder, cleaned up & ready for milking.

BoPeep calved in February & I went right to milking.  At first, she had way more milk than a little calf could drink, so I didn’t need to separate them at all.  I just brought her into the parlor in the mornings & took the extra….and since she knew Hershey had eaten well, she didn’t hold up on me.  Of course, as Hershey grew, he started eating more and I had to separate them overnight so she was full of milk for me in the morning.  I didn’t want to milk every day, though, and this way I can just milk a few times a week.  And at that point in the game, I didn’t mind bringing him in with her to let him nurse to trigger the milk let-down.  Besides, I hate to see such a young one so hungry…I figure they deserve to have one quarter to suckle just for waiting all night.

After the first few minutes of milking: From my fingers up, Bo’s udder is still full & hard because she’s holding up her milk.

Well, as time went on, Hershey grew….and became more vigorous in his nursing.  When he started butting so hard that the milker inflations would fly off momma’s teats, I knew something had to change.  I hoped she would just start letting down for the milker, but that was not to be.  She’d hold up until I brought the little guy in.  So I tried “supervised nursing”, holding onto him with the halter.  I’d let him nurse just long enough to trigger a let-down & then tie him beside her until I was done.  He got breakfast afterwards.

Once Hershey is in, tied by her head & enjoying his bucket, BoPeep lets down for the milker.

After a couple months of that routine, she finally started letting down her milk when I brought him in & tied him beside her…without nursing.  It felt like a major breakthrough!  I could milk her most of the way out, then let him nurse a little on the back two quarters while I got the last of the good stuff from the front two.  And that’s the way it’s been for these last couple months.  Now Hershey is 6 months old, and really a rather BIG baby.  So big that last weekend when I was going to milk, he didn’t bother showing up at the parlor door in the morning like he usually does.  He was up in the pasture on top of the mountain with the rest of the herd eating nice green grass, and I guess milk just didn’t enter his mind.  Bo, of course, was bellowing her head off while I got set up inside.  When I was ready to bring her in the parlor I called for him a couple times.  He was nowhere to be seen or heard.  So I had to proceed without Hershey’s help.  It didn’t go so well.

Now that Bo has relaxed & let go of her precious commodity, the top of her udder is soft & pliable, and the bottom part has filled again.

I hooked up the milker to her very full udder.  She gave me the customary 1/2 gallon that was already down in where she can’t hold it back….then turned the spigots off.  At that point I can feel that, although the bottom part of her udder is soft & empty, the top half is still rock hard & full.  I pushed & prodded & kneaded, begged & cajoled & pleaded…all to no avail.  BoPeep in turn got all upset, danced around, splattered runny poop all over the place & tried to squash me between her body & my little milker shelf.  I was a bit more than frustrated!  It was obvious I wasn’t going to get any more of the 1 – 1 1/2 gallons of milk she had in there, so I did the sensible thing & called a stalemate.  But the war was not over & she was not going to get away with this.  I told her NO WAY was she going back out to that big ol’ baby when she was still holding up on me…and I put her out in a different paddock all by herself for the day.

Almost done: I let Hershey nurse the back two to help me get the good, creamy stuff from the front quarters.

I figured that by late afternoon or early evening, Hershey would be down looking for his momma.  Bo spent most of the day bellowing for him, but I never heard him answer her, and never saw him come looking for her.  I finally decided I needed to go milk her before she burst.  Once again I did the sensible thing…I hiked the whole way up the mountain to fetch the little bugger & bring him to the barn!  As we passed the paddock Bo was in, I opened the gate & just let her follow us to the barn.  I stuck Hershey in the stall & shooed Bo through to the parlor, where we cleaned up & then proceeded with things the usual way.  She was so excited to see him  that she let down as soon as he came through the door!  Good grief!

All done & outside again with an empty udder.

Needless to say, after 6 months of this, I’m sick of the rigamarole.  Besides, Hershey is essentially sold & just waiting until he’s weaned to go to his new home.  And my frustration level is saying that it’s definitely time to wean & say good-bye!  So that’s my plan.  These next several days, Aug. 28 – Sept.1, Jeff & I will be headed to Michigan to get Brenton situated at Calvin College (oh dear, HOW did that happen so fast?) and be there for the parent part of orientation.  When we get back….look out Bo!  I’m sure the first few days of weaning won’t be pretty…at least they’ll be extremely noisy…but I’ll be gettin’ ready for a big let-down!

Check back next time to see how it goes.

One Response to “What’s the Big Hold-Up?!”

  1. Susan Lea Says:

    Oh, dear, I had no idea it was so complicated! I guess we’ll find out–and I’ll be checking your blog for more tips. Keep ’em coming!