What are you doing with all the milk?

The question I get most often these days, other than, “OMG, you look tired–Are you OK???” is, “I hear you have a cow. What in the hell are you doing with all that milk?”

The first thing in hell that we do with all that milk is stop taking half of it.

Isn't she lovely?

Claire was giving up to 3 gallons per day with two milkings, and I felt between collecting milk and nursing Eleanor that my entire life revolved around dairy. SURPRISE: It turns out 21 gallons of milk per week is a lot. Too much, some would say, for one family. Especially when there are no pigs around to slop up the leftovers.

So I remembered that just because the milk is there, it doesn’t mean I have to take it all, so I started squeezing boobies for shorter amounts of time in the mornings and cranking up the demand at night for a week or two until finally, presently, we are milking once at night and retrieving—get this—about half the amount of milk.

Basically the result is 1.5 to 1.75 gallons per day, or about 11 gallons per week, which is juuuuuuuust right. Also, I imagine, less taxing on Claire and she eats half the grain, too. Plus I feel like I can do something other than milk, or make things with milk. My children are happy that I can occasionally feed them, change a diaper or two and watch YouTubes with them now.

Everybody wins!

This is what interspecies milk theft looks like

This will be a problem when we need more (much more!!) milk in the spring to feed pigs, but by then we will have lactating goats, so I don’t want you to stay up all night worrying whether Six Buckets Farm will have enough dairy.

Although 11 gallons of milk sounds like a lot to the laymen, it is really not that much milk at all.

Toddlers blow through milk almost as fast as swine. The largest percentage of their dairy consumption manifests in the form of taking the lid off a sippy cup and dumping milk down the stairs or in a clean pile of laundry. They require about a gallon of milk per week to dump on something beautiful and another gallon for drowning their Cheerios and toddler sorrows.

We’re down to nine gallons.

I usually make 2 batches of cheddar, which sucks up 4 gallons and makes 4 pounds of cheddar. Toddlers also consume cheddar like monsters, but they digest it best in the form of goldfish crackers, macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. Cheese is, after all, the foundation of a toddler’s white food pyramid.

(THAT CHEDDAR CRAP THAT YOU BUY IN THE STORE HAS BEEN DYED ORANGE, PEOPLE)

Five gallons left!

One or two gallons are put aside for mozzarella, or some other cheese experiment that goes horribly wrong and has to be melted into the macaroni and cheese because I have no way to measure PH and it turns out way too crumbly, for example.  Ricotta is made from the hard cheese whey, and it sets up better if combined with a half a gallon of whole milk, so it helps a little.

Three gallons left!

Seth and I are responsible for one gallon as a couple (occasionally two when we throw a half cup of cocoa/sugar in the milk and demand to be served choco-milk at bedtime).

We skim all the milk we use for drinking and the cream doesn’t sit long in the fridge, becoming part of a soup or dessert or, most likely, butter.

One or possibly two gallons left. Oh, no! Someone go to the store and get more milk!

The rest is split up into smaller batches of things that I make sporadically: greek yogurt, sour cream (basically the same thing) cultured buttermilk, kefir, cheese cultures, etc. There are still lots of things I am eager to try.

Usually the barn cat and Maybel get some milk treats and Eleanor regularly breaks the “no cow’s milk until 12 months” rule by snatching one of the girls’ sippy cups or sucking the milk off the bottom stair tread as it finally trickles down to her level.

I keep telling her that when she learns to crawl up the stairs her milk supply will be much more fresh. Silly baby.

And that is how you use all the milk.

Here are the economics, for the nosy:

Claire and the goats are eating a half a bale of hay per day, (I was told Claire alone would be eating an entire bale per day, but this isn’t happening??) and they go through about 50 pounds of grain per week. About 5 pounds per day goes to the cow and 2 pounds for the goats every day, although the goats are both getting fat and will be cut off soon.

So, a bale of hay is $3.50, and a 50-pound bag of feed averages $10, so they are costing us about $22 per week, or $88 per month. I don’t think we ever spent that much on diary, but there are a few things to consider, including the fact that we are feeding hay only for a few months out of the year, and we will sell baby goats and baby cows in the spring to recoup some of the cost of caring for them. (Oh who am I kidding … we will keep the calf and at least a few of Jaeger’s goat babies!!) The milkers will also basically cancel out a $200 feed bill per pig, and the same goes for chickens if I ever remember to pick up some laying hens.

The hens drink the milk and scratch through all the droppings in the winter, getting every last penny out of that grain bill, and the pigs will root up winter’s deep bedding to make compost for the garden in the spring.

So, no … a cow by itself is not economical at all in any way, but a cow as a part of working homestead is harmony.

I have no idea what the environmental impact is, nor have I put a monetary value on the happiness of the cow or goats. That would be priceless, I assume.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this e-edition of “What the hell do you do with all the milk??”

Stay tuned for next week, when I will address the third most frequently asked question here at Six Buckets Farm: “Is that shit on your pants?”

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