I've been milking Maisy for a week now, with the very pricey Surge milker, purchased especially for her, about three years and two previous calves ago. It's been working fine. My son John had set it all up perfectly, and had milked Maisy himself, after never having milked before, ever, while I made a quick trip up to Maine. He'd enjoyed it very much, I think, and was even a bit reluctant, I'd say, to turn the milking over to me when he left for work.
It was going well, until yesterday morning.
I suspect what happened is that, Maisy, with her rather slow, cow-perception of situations, suddenly realized John was no longer milking her, and decided that she'd rather go the old-fashioned and much slower-paced route, using the "milk-maid" she'd gotten used to with her two previous calves.
I set everything up, turned on the pump, put the machine under her very full bag, and attempted to attach the cups, done by just holding them up to her teats, and waiting for the vacuum to draw them in, as I had done fairly successfully all week.
Maisy kicked off the first one, then the second. (There are four cups to attach, as cows have four teats, or quarters, that produce milk.) I tried again, not getting excited at all, because, well, maybe she had an off night. We all do.
She kicked them off again, and began to exit, stage-left, in her stanchion, which made things suddenly difficult.
I moved toward her, which from milking by hand, I know won't make the situation any better, let alone "chasing" her with a shiny, pumping machine. I attempted a third time, with no luck.
On the fourth attempt, she managed to wing me with her hoof, and knocked off my glasses. That's when I conceded defeat, because, as my daughter Deirdre said on the phone later, she could imagine me on the barn floor, with"gray matter leaking out of a crack in my head". Cows hooves are sharp, a kick landed in the right spot will do some serious damage.
Now, here's where it gets tricky.
"Real" farmers will say, scratching their heads, that you cannot let the cow tell you what to do. Duh. I know that. I was raised by a "real" farmer, my dad. (Who, by the way, had the infinite wisdom to never let his girls work in the barn, or make "pets" of the cows. Thanks, Daddy, I see that now. Although, you might have explained WHY, at the time...)
At the moment, I am not feeling defeated, but more like a "girl", or "milk-maid", if you will. Maisy and I had a classic milking this morning, when I did not try the machine at all. She was calm and didn't move a muscle. I sat milking, leaning my head on her leg, the very leg that, yesterday morning, threatened concussion, and worked away at it for about thirty minutes, milking her two back quarters completely out, and leaving the two front ones full for her calf, Daisy. My mind wandered here and there, and I thought, how idealistic milking time was. Anyone that knows me well, knows that idealism is my one weakness.
Maisy, very nicely, picked up her back hoof, just a bit, to let me know we were finished. Lovely.
Out of the barn and into the field to graze in the spring sun for her, back to the house for coffee for moi. Exactly an hour from start to finish had passed...the same time it takes using the machine.
What does this lengthy dissertation mean?
I'll most likely be reprimanded for not using the machine, letting the cow dictate to me, "you bought the machine"...yes, I remember, and so on. But, I know milking a cow is an experience I am lucky to be able to have, I've worked hard to keep this cow, as have the other members of my family, and while I can do it, I am very fortunate indeed, and very happy when it comes right down to it, to make the committment.