Trautman Family Farm

  (stoughton, Wisconsin)
The Grass-Organic Life in Wisconsin!
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Dairy Meditation

I am trying to firm the habit of writing it down here, because if I don't, you won't hear from me again until...December! Just a short jot; lots on my mind but this is it for today:

We've gotten to know a whole lot of really great people through our farm. We have over 500 customers on our books, maybe 200 very active and the most of the rest occasional. So we see and get to know a lot of people. 

Many people express their envy of our "lifestyle" -- the farming, the outdoors, but then rethink some at the committment, the hours. But almost all seem to draw the line at being a dairyman. Now that, is committment, and work; a 365 day one at that.

And it is and not every moment is a bowl of cream and cherries. And a fair number of those "not" c&c's, have been this lovely winter for us.


And I speak for myself alone and not my dairyman wife.....

I don't yet meditate in the traditional sense. I milk cows and that I have chosen to make my meditation.

It is repetitive, most of the time it does not have to have my full attention, it is a whole routine; a ritual done every day for approximately one and a half hours. And not repeated that 2nd time per day; we milk once a day.

And the best part is the cows. I love cows. I love being with them, I love handling them, milking them. Yes, as a matter of fact I am a hugger and I talk to cows, too. I do a lot of telling them how pretty they are (girls like that), how good they are, what a good mommy they are, how much I love them. And then even some silly stuff. They do not mock me as others do! (okay so it took a strange turn there: really, they don't look at you real funny.usually, when I talk to them. No they do not talk back.). Each cow has its own distinct personality and characteristics. They are beautiful, intelligent animals. They 99% of the time do what you want; we know how to communicate to each other, and we respect each other.

I'm thinking there probably aren't too many other dairymen out there that have expressed their.. a) enjoyment of milking cows...and b) that it is a meditation. That's outright hippy talking there, boy!

It is this for me because I've decided that's what it's going to be. I could have as easily decided it was going to be this repetitive, boring thing I have to do every day. And that's what it would be.

I enjoy it, too, because I milk with my wife, Julie. And it is for sure a time during the day where we're together. Julie does not view milking quite the same way as I do; but she does it, and with a happy heart.

Lots of days we'll listen to Bob & Tom on the radio; some days nothing at all, or music or something like This American Life, which I'm pleased Julie is now into. We have what's called a flat 8 parlor. It's very much like a stanchion barn; we just have room for 8 at a time rather than the whole herd at one time. We milk 22 cows right this minute, so that's 3 runs through the parlor.

It takes about 5 minutes to get a group of 8 cows into our parlor. Julie and I each manage 2 milking machines, split between cows. It takes about 2 minutes to clean and "prep" a cow('s udder). Then about eh, 5 minutes with the machine on. It takes about 20 minutes for a group, 3 groups, 1 hour. 15 minutes setup, 15 minutes cleanup. 1.5 hours each day.

The cows have their habits. Within one or two cows, the three groups we milk usually consist of the same cows that come in. And their favorite spots. A couple -- and girls, you know who you are -- Rhoda -- don't like certain spots and are quite the pills when in them.

A person can decide whatever they like in life; and I've decided there is great beauty and joy in the daily communion between the cows and me. I notice -- and appreciate, downright tickled in fact -- at our ability to work together in peace. A hand gently on the flank. Thank you Rebba, she understand perfectly, move over a step so I can get in and milk Wanda there next to you. Lift a foot oh so gently -- sorry there Jeanne, I know, so sensitive your teats, I'll slow down, more gentle. God is here with me in these moments, simple to appreciate, and I am thankful.

I suppose there are 'mean' cows, 'kickers', bad ones. Yet I have 30 and none. Why is that? Oh, you milk 100, or maybe it's 1000, or you milk for, how long you been doing this? Set the bar out just beyond reach -- then -- there's where you'll find that misery. Yet I don't believe that at all. We've made this situation just as others have made there's. Jeanne and her sensitive teats: I will start by just gently holding one  with a warm washcloth, and put my cheek in her side, and tell her "I know, I know". And she won't lift her foot, and if she does, it's me that apologizes.

There's a checkbox on a form for 'temperament', she's ornery, she's a kicker. As good a reason as any for someone to decide she's not worth the effort. And off she goes. She gives enough milk, well, we'll haul out the apparatus, we'll teach you, we won't like it or you, but we will dominate you and when we're through with you --

So that's how it is, but not here, and we don't have cows with temperament problems; at least not any issues with me. Julie, well, Jeanne, Maidengirl, and formerly Baby, Scott, you take them. Fine, no problem at all. Happy to.  For me temperament issues are mine: My impatience, my inability to communicate, my failure. Baby, by the way, when she's first fresh, has extra sensitive rear teats, she gives a kick when you take the milker off, no problems putting it on. But after about a month, no problem, you forget she was ever a 'kicker' because she is so very, very sweet. And all her calves: the most of any cow we have, born here, 3 of them, are always the most friendly by far of the group, always the ones wanting scratchers, ooooh that spot around the horn buds, under the chin, the good ones, the really really good scratchers.

What a silly simpleton, huh? If you only really knew, you'd know. You know I'd like a temperament checkbox on the  dairyman's form - the one where we judge you instead of the cow. Don't like your temperament -- you there --  we're through with you ---

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