Animals | Cattle | Homesteading | Ranch Life | Tips & Tricks

Tails of bull semen and cow milking

September 8, 2012

In 2010 my life changed forever…

I said goodbye to the suburbs, college life and packed my car and took a 24 hour road trip to the land that I would call my new home; Rockville, Oregon. 45 miles from the closest grocery store, hospital and to most people, civilization. As I settled down into my new home I began to realize what a big change my life was starting to encounter. I lived at my soon-to-be in laws house until Sean and I got married, which was such a blessing because I learned so much about daily ranch life by watching my mother-in-law and father-in-law.

However, things really started to change when I officially got married. I was now on my own, running a household that I was very unfamiliar with. My husband was fairly good about coming home around 6pm but some nights I would sit anxiously awaiting his arrival home off the cold high desert around 10-11pm. It wasn’t so much that it was late, but the fact that he was on horseback. In the dark. Tired. Sore, and not home yet. These are things that still make me worried to this day, but I’ve learned to trust more in my husband and his horses.

The transformation from “suburban chick” to “ranches wife” was a slow process that took lots of painful and funny events to help me become the confident rural wife I am today. One phone call made me realize that I had no idea what life on the ranch had in store for me. I was at my mother-in-laws house one day and answered the phone when nobody was home:

  • Me- “Hello?”
  • Guy on the phone: “Hi, is Ron home?”
  • Me- “No he is not, can I take a message?”
  • Guy on the phone: “Yes please, I just wanted Ron to know what I will be coming down this week to fill his tank.”
  • Me- “Ok, sure, his gas tanks?”
  • Guy on the phone: “No, his semen tank.”
  • Me- *awkward pause* “Um, excuse me.”
  • Guy on the phone: *awkward pause* “Well, he is low on nitrogen for his semen tank… His bull semen…”
  • Me- *another awkward pause* “Sure… I’ll give him the message…”

However awkward these moments are they were growing moments for me as I learned more about ranch life and how the ranch worked… Like the fact that we artificially inseminate some of our cows.

Now the jump from store bought milk to raw milk was easy, because it was all we drank at my in laws house and we had a milk cow, but it was now my turn to actually learn how to milk the cow. This was an experience to say the least. My husband has been milking the cow since he was about 8 years old. He has strong hands, quick reflexes and doesn’t mind getting swatted in the face by a dung filled cow tail. If you ever thought that milking a cow was an easy task then you need to try it for yourself. You must station yourself next to cow on a small stool near her rear end… This means anything is fair game: poop, pee, flies, flying hooves, swatting tails and a pesky calf who wants the milk. It truly is a balancing act. You must squeeze the cows tit just right so the milk comes out and aim it in the bucket while getting slapped in the face with a tail and hope that she doesn’t lift her leg to kick you, so you must be on your toes ready to pounce. When I first sat down to milk I thought to myself that this must be pretty easy. I sat down on my bucket and got the pail stationed under the cow. I took one good squeeze of her tit and watched the milk come out. I looked down at the bucket and realized that it barely was a teaspoon of milk that just came out. Then I let the calf in to get a good suck (this helps the cow let her milk down). After she left her milk down I proceeded to wrestle with a 200lbs calf who wanted to drink the rest of his momma’s milk and leave none for me. Finally, after a 5 minute battle with the calf I got him out of the calf pen and continued my milking endeavor. Now her tits were nice and slimy thanks to the calf. I sat down on the bucket again and started to milk. Milk was flying on my boots, on the side of the pail, and didn’t seem to want to stay in a straight line going into the pail. *Swat* Nothing says good-morning like a poop covered tail in your face. I wondered if there was any way to pin her tail to her side instead of hitting me in the face. I continued milking. She kicks, I jump back with the bucket, saving the half-cup of milk I had milked. Repositioned myself and started milking again. Finally after getting about 1/4 gallon of milk my hands started to burn. I would take a break, milk, take a break, milk, try one hand, try the other, switch sides, and finally when I got around 1/2 a gallon of milk I thought I was getting the hang of it all. Proudly I continued milking and let my guard down. The cow then lifted up her large leg kicked forward, I jumped back to save my face, but left the pail…. CRASH!!! There I stood and looked at the spilled milk on the ground… Yes, spilled milk is worth crying over after going through all of that. This is why my husband still to this day milks the cow every morning and not me.

These little experiences will stick in my brain forever as I look back on my first year on the ranch, there are more stories that I wish to share in due time, but there’s always poop to be cleaned up and a meal to be cooked.

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  1. Liz, I finally read this and you really painted a great picture! Funny , funny girl!! You have come a long way baby!!! Very proud of you and Sean and what you are doing out there!!! I love the fact that we stayed there and now can picture where you are…. Tim and I think it is beautiful out there in that high desert~
    Cecilia is one fortunate girl to have the parents she has and to grow up in the great outdoors!
    db

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