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Raw Milk, Oh Baby!

My husband version of a “Proverbs 31 wife” has been milking our 8 year old Irish Dexter for about a month now.  Let me just cut to the chase… the milk is AMAZING! The taste, the texture, the health benefits, the butter, the cream, the sour cream, yumm, yumm!

Steven and I are learning first hand the work load increase that any small farm, grass fed dairy incurs. Steven wakes up one hour earlier to make his trek out to the paddock where the cows are grazing. (The walk gets progressively shorter since the rotationally grazing mob is on their way back to the barn. Every day, the walk is 30 feet shorter.) For the majority of dairies, they cut out this trek to the pasture by keeping the cows in sandy stalls or a dry lot and bringing them hay and grain.

Ivy is the cow. Milk is her game. She is a dehorned, black Irish Dexter cow and despite her eight years as “just a cow” she has become a quite trusty and calm milk machine. Steven halters her and leads her to the barn. He built a milking stanchion last year in hopes that one day he would be able to lead one of these dual purpose bovines up onto the raised platform to get a taste of this solar powered butter, cheese, ice cream, and milk. The crest of Ivy’s shoulder is just above my waste, so you could imagine the problems one may have when trying to milk udders that are so close to the ground.  We milk with a “short bucket” and a raised cow.

Day after day, Ivy gets more and more comfortable with her new roll. She knows where the stanchion is and will walk up into it and put her head through to chomp down on some delicious alfalfa cubes. I’ll admit, she liked my husband way more than me at first. She landed three kicks of about 30 tries when I first tried to take a turn at milking. Now when I see her shifting her weight, I rub the cow equivalent of a shin on her back leg until she calms and levels her weight back out. When you’re so “personal” when the cow and your head is totally in HER space, you can tell when she starts to have thoughts of kicking.

Milking is definitely a learned technique. You just have to learn it by doing it. Steven gets her going and the bucket gets all foamy. I tried and I was barely able to get a squirt out! Now, I am proud to say, that I can hum the melody to “I’m a Soul Man” to keep a rhythm and milk our three quarters of a gallon. Oh, yeah! Sure, she still gives Steven more milk, but my skills are growing.

When Steven milks both morning and evening, we are getting just over two gallons a day.  All this milk, what to do? What to do? Well make butter of course! Dexter milk has a fair share of cream. The lush alfalfa, clover, and orchard grass pastures make fine milk with plenty of cream. One quarter or more of each jar is cream after 24 hours. It takes longer to separate and float to the top than Jersey milk because the fat globules are smaller.

We’ve been exploring Gelato making. So far, we’ve had two batches that were C to F grades. This was due to our rookie mistakes. Now we are just pulling out two more batches, one vanilla and one Nutella. They are better but we may need to get a gelato maker as it seems that the speed of the paddles are slower when making real gelato.

For all of you who don’t know why one would go through the trouble to milk a cow I’ll just sum up some of the reasons. First, Ivy is 100% grass fed. Her milk has benefits similar to meat that is grass fed. The milk fat is healthy. Ivy is not fed “preventative” or sub therapeutic  antibiotics. So this is not in her milk. She is not given any bovine growth hormones to increase her production. Her body is cycling like a natural cow, a healthy cow, a womanly cow, as God designed. She’s giving the amount of milk that God intended her to give, not artificially over-producing for the sake of business profits.  Hormones come from the cow into her milk mainly in the fat molecules, so if there are added hormones (or naturally elevated estrogen due to the cow being pregnant) they are found in the cream & butter.  Ivy’s cream and butter, on the other hand, contain (probably) higher levels of CLAs and better ratios of EFAs.

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Anyone else have experience with a milk cow that you’d like to share? Anyone milking a Dexter? Anyone have any stories about Raw Milk benifites that you’ve experienced?

7 comments to Raw Milk, Oh Baby!

  • Were Dexters developed as a mixed purpose (milk and meat) breed?

  • Geri, My wife wrote this but I’ll answer your question.
    Yes, that’s right, Dexters were a “house cow” in Ireland. They were required to produce enough milk for a family’s dairy needs and a calf for beef. They can also be used as a nurse cow.
    What is really amazing to me is that we are using no grain at and yesterday was the first day I used alfalfa pellets. Despite being on pasture alone she’s giving 1 3/4 – 2 1/4 gallons of milk and not only that but her body condition looks really really good. Part of the reason that we bought Dexters was the fact that they were so versatile and we wanted to have the option to milk if we wanted. I now am ready for some beef cows but am still really happy with her.
    By the way, Dexters are also used as oxen.

  • Julie Anderson

    Nice! Congrats on you & Ivy and your new milking abilities! I’m still plugging away with my goat girls and making lots of cheese too. Ivy looks great. ‘Almost’ makes me want a cow.. ha… Julie

  • Assuming adequate feed otherwise, I don’t think there would be a requirement for a non-freak dairy cow. Sufficient and forage ought to take care of it.

    I’m not familiar with dairy cattle at all, but I suspect that typical ones are fed simply because they’re partially confined, and the modern dairy cow is a bit of a freak, bread for extraordinarily high milk production.

    Very interesting on the Dexter.

    Is your family good with the milk? I sometimes find that people who are used to getting their milk from a plastic jug are a little put off by the original product for some reason.

  • Could you restate the first paragraph? I’m not following you.

  • Anna

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge about Dexters. I’m a suburbanite-recently-turned-mini-farm-girl and I’ve been researching Dexters, but I’m embarassed to say that I don’t know what you do with the milk from the cow. Do you need to “process” the milk in any way before drinking it? 🙂 And, do you use special “equipment” to separate the cream? Thanks for putting up with my newbie questions.

  • So, what do you DO with the milk?
    We take to back to the kitchen as quickly as possible and then strain it into a clean jar. You can use milk strainers and filters but we just bought some synthetic fabric from a fabric store that works as a very fine screen to remove hair or bits of stuff that fell in the milk. We usually fold the fabric so that the milk must pass through a few layers of it. We then move the clean milk to the freezer or an ice water bath as soon as possible to chill it. Chilling the milk keeps any bad bacteria from multiplying to a dangerous level.
    We aren’t currently milking but we drink it whole or use a ladle to spoon off some cream and use the cream to make butter in our mixer. To make butter you basically just agitate the cream at room temp. and it starts to separate and bind to itself. I then use the mixers dough hooks to kneed the butter and squeeze out all the left over milk.

    Hope this helps. If you’re looking for a milk cow I know where there is a Dexter/Jersey cross heifer for sale. 🙂