An Amish ‘Milking’

One of the highlights of my trip to Lancaster County last year was doing a ‘milking.’ My Amish friend Sadie lives next to her brother who’s a dairy farmer. When Stacey and I stayed with Sadie for a week last September, we offered to help him by doing some of the chores, including milking the dairy cows. He took us right up on the offer. So the first day we were there we learned how to milk from two of his daughters, ages 11 and 13. We did such a great job that they asked us to do the Friday evening milking when they were all at the Green Dragon Market.

The first time we milked, we wore our regular clothes. Being the goober that I am, I bought overalls for the occasion. Okay, I admit it. I LOVE overalls! So working on a dairy farm was the perfect excuse to get a new pair. And of course Crocs. But after the first milking, Sadie told us we “reeked” (that’s a quote) and we decided for Friday’s chores we would dress a bit differently. When Friday rolled around, we changed into choring dresses.

Okay, so the real truth is that Sadie made us wear two of her choring dresses because she said we would stink to high heaven if we didn’t. Since we were living with her, we had no choice!

When we walked down the lane to her brother’s farm, all of the cows were in the pasture. First we put out feed at each stall so the cows could immediately eat. Stacey let the cows in and they miraculously went to their own stall. All but the bull. He stayed in the holding pen.

The girls explained that each cow has a number and a name which are both on a sign in their stall. We checked after they came in and all but one went to the correct stall. (Sadie’s niece told me her name was Lena and she was a known troublemaker. A troublemaking cow…who knew?)

Once the cows were settled in and eating, we hooked each of their collars to the chain at each stall. I cleaned the udders and hooked up the machine to the first cow. The machine is powered by a generator so it gets mighty loud in there! While I was doing that Stacey put more feed around the outside of the holding pen so when the milking was over they could eat a bit more before going back outside.

Once the first cow was milked, I poured the milk into a big container called the sputnik and hooked up the next cow. We had four machines and four tanks that we rotated. Once the sputnik was full, we rolled it into the milking room to the refrigerated holding tank. When the milk man comes he removes the milk from this holding tank by pumping it into the milk truck.

When the milking was complete, we let the cows back into the holding pen for a bit. It was quite a chore getting them out of their stalls and back into the holding pen because after they eat, drink, and get milked they grow tired and lie down.

Once the cows were back in the holding pen, we swept all of the manure into grates that empty into a manure pit under the barn and sanitized all the equipment. Once we had all these chores complete we let the cows back outside. Then we refilled the big wagon with feed so it was ready for the morning milking.

There were over fifty cows and the whole process took the four of us about an hour and a half. Fun and interesting, but definitely hard work!

I hope you enjoy the pictures we took during our Lancaster ‘milking.’

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