Saturday, January 1, 2011

Skimming cream

The cows are staying warm and dry in the barn during the winter, eating hay and dreaming of green pastures (I’m imaging that last part, of course). I didn’t get either one of them bred back this last summer as I intended. It’s been a year since Tilly freshened (12/31/2009) and about 7.5 months since Josie freshened. We’re still milking both of them twice a day, and intend to continue doing so for another year or as long as they continue lactating. I’ll get them bred in early summer, I hope. I prefer that their calves be born in Spring.

If I kept a bull on the farm, it would simplify getting the cows bred, but I don’t really want an extra mouth to feed. With two cows, two steers, and a horse, we go through enough hay. I considered selling Tilly so that we would need to feed less hay, but we ended up keeping her – I didn’t really want to get rid of her. We probably don’t need two milk cows, but we have them and are able to keep them fed. And, the milk is appreciated.

At this time of year while the cows are eating hay – and it’s just grass hay, nothing special – we’re getting 1.5 to 2 gallons of milk a day. The amount varies depending upon how well they like a particular bale of hay and how cold it is. Colder weather requires them to convert more energy into keeping warm, and it affects the amount of milk produced. Now, this quantity of milk is not really much for two cows, but I don’t expect or want extreme production. This is enough milk for our uses and to share with my parents and Danny. It’s also better for the cows’ health since it isn’t taxing them to much to produce this amount, I believe.

During the summer months when the cows are on fresh grass and closer to the time they freshen, we get between 3 and 5 gallons of milk per day. That’s more than we can keep up with, usually. We ought to be converting some of that into cheese, but we’ve not taken on the extra task of doing so on a regular basis. We do make as much butter as we can, and Anne cans it when we have enough accumulated. Canned butter will keep for years. We use the butter as shortening/oil in baking and cooking so that we don’t have to buy oil. It also gets used on hot biscuits, sweet potatoes, and other things.

During the summer months, I skim cream off of the jars of milk on a regular basis. I have to in order to have jars to put more milk into. We also drink whole milk a couple times a day (whole milk is good for you and easier to digest than skim milk). Since the cows have been in the barn, I’ve not had to skim as often. The cream from cows eating fresh grass is preferable to the cream from hay-fed cows. Also, we’ve been mostly keeping up with the amount of milk we’ve been getting.

I know there are different ways that cream can be separated from the milk. The cream naturally rises to the surface when the milk cools. If we’re going to drink the milk, we shake the jar to mix the cream back in with the milk. If we want to use a little of the cream, like for coffee or tea, we can pour some off the top of the jar. If we want it for butter or bakingDSCF0990 (we substitute cream for some of the liquid and oil called for in a recipe – makes good biscuits, for example), then I need to skim it.

We strain the fresh milk through a cloth into 2-quart wide-mouth jars before refrigerating it. The wide mouth is large enough so that I can get a gravy ladle into the jar. My skimming method is quite simple: I use the gravy ladle to take the cream off the top of the milk. I put the cream in a quart jar so it will be available for use later. When I get down to the milk in the jar, it’s visible (you can see the separation between the cream and the milk) as I’m ladling out the cream. That’s when I stop skimming. It doesn’t take long to skim the cream off of two or three gallons of milk. The amount of cream we get varies some during the seasons. We can usually get a quart of cream from 1.5 gallons of whole milk, sometimes from only 1 gallon. If you click on the photo to enlarge it and then look closely, you can see the line between the milk and the cream in the two full jars (just above the “B” in “Ball”).


Ann from KY

I have hesitated getting a cow because of the cost and having too much milk. We are hand milkers here, and I figured it would take awhile to milk them. I do have some goats I milk, and about 1 gallon or a little more is about what I get. We just use the milk.
I would suggest you look at Hoegger Goat supply. They have a nice stainless steel filter with filter discs that fit in it. Best of all, it's affordable! I have one and I also have used mine to filter other things as well. The box of white filter discs lasts a long time. They also have cheesemaking stuff too! And other milking things. We use the fight bac spray and it's really easy to use. check it out Ann from KY


I hand milk our cows. Usually, it takes almost an hour to milk, take care of the cows (feed, water), filter the milk into jars, and wash the bucket. I have a strainer into which I fit a doubled cloth diaper (never used as a diaper, though) for straining the milk. I rinse and clean it with hot soapy water after each use. An iodine solution also works for killing bacteria.


I have just finished reading your blog from the beginning to current. It is great. I haven't had a chance to read your other one yet. This one took a few days in my spare time. I was interested if you ever got those pigs to root around in your deep bedding in the barn from last winter or if you ended up cleaning it out with the skid steer now that you have it.


I'm glad you've appreciated my blog! Your question about the pigs is a good one. No, I didn't get them. I kept doing other things, primarily working on our house (the subject of my other blog), and never got around to buying a couple pigs. The bedding stayed in the barn until Fall when my boys and I finally cleaned it out. The skidsteer would've been nice to use, but I've got to fix the starter on it which involves pulling the engine out (a bigger job than I was able to tackle this summer). So, we used pitchforks. The bedding actually came out quite well in about 2 or 3 days worth of labor. I put it in a pile on the garden -- about 12 tons or so. I'll spread it in the Spring. I'm doing the deep bedding again this winter and am not afraid to pitch it out again. We worked 2 or 3 hours at a time over a few days so that it wasn't a bad job afterall.


I also just found your blog today. I don't have any cows, we don't have enough land for them here and I don't have any goats--yet--I really want one this year though and would love to raise a pig--sort of amazing to me that I can't find a piglet but I'm looking. I do what I can though and will always be doing more.
I think your way of skimming the milk is just fine. I can remember skimming cream off the milk when I was a kid and we used to get fresh milk from a neighbor. We used the spoon as well.


Becky, I'm glad you found my blog. I hope it is helpful. We've had goats in the past. The fresh milk is a blessing, and we really appreciate having it. Make the most of the opportunities that you have!

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