Reporter gets second chance at cow milking
There's a real technique to milking a cow by hand. You can't just tug and expect milk to come out.
I learned that lesson the hard way between the last two June Dairy Days cow milking competitions, where area community leaders compete to see who can get the most milk.
At last year's contest I placed a shameful last with just about two squirts of milk. The organizers of the event were kind enough to measure it in at 0.1 ounces. I know the truth, though.
Getting last place at a cow milking competition isn't something you brag about. I'm not quite sure how I can be so bad at it. I even studied.
I Googled "how to milk a cow" and skimmed the step-by-step directions.
"Squeeze teat at top with thumb and forefinger. Continue squeezing each finger around teat, forcing milk in a stream until all fingers are around teat," the eHow article read.
On site last year, Brainerd Mayor James Wallin, a multiple cow milking contest champion, gave me a few extra tips. He even demonstrated on my thumbs. (Dispatch photographer Steve Kohls caught it on camera. It's pretty funny, so check it out on the newspaper's YouTube site.)
Still, I placed last in 2013.
I'll attribute it to being first to milk. I just warmed up 'ol Bessie for everyone else after me.
This year, I was determined to win. Well, at least not place last.
This time, my research was done via WikiHow. I studied the cartoon images. Maybe seeing photos will make a difference.
I practiced on my thumb the finger maneuvers the webpage described.
Grip the teat at the top. Be firm, but don't pull down too hard.
At Wednesday's event at Culver's, I drew sixth place out of 14 milkers.
Good news - the cow would be warmed up for me.
Meet the cow I would be milking: Spot is 4 years old. She's light brown with large white spots on the back half of his body. She's calm and rarely reacts to the uneducated hands of the amateur milker.
That's a good quality to have when you have a handful of newbies tugging at you. Spot stood tough throughout each of the 14 people.
I watched with a keen eye the technique each of the milkers used before me.
One was too rough, just pulling at poor Spot. Another seemed afraid to really get in there and wrap her fingers around the cow. But the milker before me, Justin Thesing, the Brainerd Future Farmers of America president, seemed to have the right movements. The back left was the place to go.
Plastic bucket in my left hand, I knelt on the ground next to Spot. In my pre-milking interview, I pledged I would surpass my 0.1 ounce achievement last year.
"Ready, set, go," the time keeper called out.
Thumb, pointer finger in place. The other fingers followed suit. A gentle, but firm tug down. Milk.
In the next 30 seconds, I tried out each of the four teats. I could already tell I was doing better than last year.
My eyes squinted, focused on Spot, my lips tight from concentrating. (My heightened seriousness caused a few laughs by onlookers after).
My milk total was 0.6 ounces. That's half an ounce better than last year.
My victory was short lived as the rest of the contestants took their turn. I tied for eighth place.
First place was Dale Lueck, a candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives, with 2.6 ounces.
As they say, though, it's not the amount of fresh milk in the bucket that matters. It's how well you learned to grip and pull.
They do say that, right?