Saturday, June 18, 2011

Technicalities of Milking

Meuhhhh!!! That is actually French talk for moo! (So if you ever talk to a French cow, now you know how ;) ) And of our lovely cow friends, there are a few that need certain attention. What I mean, for instance, is that some cows only have two or three teats that "function" (give milk). There are only about two or three cows of the 70, but nonetheless one must pay attention. Therefore, we have these orange caps that are molded to fit into the milking machine for the teats that don't function; this way no bacteria will be sucked in and contaminate all of the milk and also the milking machine can function properly. These cows lack four fully functioning teats because other cows in the past(as a calf or heifer) had "nursed" from these malfunctioning cows. Those nursing cows now wear plastic nose rings that poke other cows in the udder so to say "look out"! For another technicality, once a cow has birthed a calf, the farmers must pay attention to the subsequent milk. The first milk after birth is colostrum which contains very essential immunoglobulins, antibodies, and several nutrient factors, all necessary for the calf's immunity. The farmers milk the mother cow and place the colostum in a freezer with other bottles of colostrum. Prior to feeding the calf, they compare the quality of the milk to decide on the best for the calf. The reason being is that some mother cows do not always yield the best quality colostrum and so the farmers look for the best for the baby calf. There are more procedures and such for the cows, however I can currently not think of the others.

So that leads us to Friday! Friday I went with Sebastian (David didn't come), where we travelled 2 hours on a bus with several other colleagues and farmers. In fact, Pierrick and Verronique as well as a few other familiar faces were on the bus with us! The problem? It wasn't the fact that the weather was windy, rainy, and cold. The problem was that when I left that morning, i left something at the house- any guesses? Doubtful that you would guess correctly, I'll tell you; it was my voice. Yes, my talking was set at the "whisper setting" with the volume of .1 ... Needless to say, I had very few conversations. It wasn't my day. At times I felt like Ariel the Little Mermaid when she lost her voice: nodding my head, waving my arms, making faces, etc. Nevertheless, the day was interesting. When we arrived on the farm, I was able to see the circular milking contraption. It turns out that there are no robots that do the milking, but rather it is the same as on every farm. The only difference is that there are many spots for the cows and that the platform rotates in a circle so that a cow can easily enter and exit the milking parlor. After the parlor, they presented some cows and spoke about their milking yields, pedigrees, etc. (Again with the confusing technical french) Following, I saw heifers, bulls, and baby calfs! In fact, I saw one that was just a day old and it was soo mignon (cute)! After our coffee/tea/hot cocoa/orange juice gathering, we left for home. As it is mid June, Sebastian had his final Judo meet, where the teammates were presented and new belts were distributed; Sebastian received a brown belt after just 3 years! (The next color is black.) Along with Justine(his girlfriend) as well as the other teammates and coaches, we all enjoyed galettes with sausage, fries, salad, and crepes for dinner. As it was nearing mid-night, Justine and I left to sleep.

In the morning, my body decided to wake up at 7:30am, believing that it had had enough rest. I ate breakfast with Justine and after she left and Sebastian woke up, Sebastian and I went for a bike ride! It lasted an hour, wherein we did about 10 miles; it was a great work-out. We even stopped at a cherry tree and enjoyed a little snack! (I couldn't do that in my neighborhood even if I wanted to). Once we returned, we left for Jean-Michel's farm. Later on, I milked the cows with the whole family: Jean-Michel, Isabelle, Ines, and Esteban. When I turned the hose on to wash the milking platform(in between milkings), I didn't grab the hose and so it gave me and Isabelle quite the shower. Even though it was just water, I felt bad, but couldn't stop laughing. The hose had only showered my leg whereas it had showered Isabelle's face and part of her body. In the end, it's just water. After the milking, we all helped bring the heifers out to graze. In doing so, you have to open many barriers that are electric wires connected to keep the cows in. Poor Ines tried to close one of the barriers and ended up grabbing a loop of wire in trying to make it easier to close. In effect, Jean-Michel screamed becuase shocked her hand without realizing what she was doing. After a few tears, she was just fine, but I couldn't stop laughing because of Jean-Michel's scream. (of course I did it discreetly, but still ...) Once the heifers were in the pasture, we all jumped in the car to drive back to the house. You'll never guess who was driving- me. I say this because I've never learned how to drive a stick shift car. I mostly learned the petals and the concept of the gears; I just need to know where the gears are (Isabelle switched gears for me). So I have officially driven a stick shift car! It definitely gives you something to do rather than our common automatic cars in the US.

For dinner, we ended up ordering pizza and it was thinner than our traditional NY style pizza, giving it a crisper crust. I was going to watch Ratatouille in French with Ines and Esteban, but they had to go to bed early tonight because of tomorrow; we're going to a communion of Isabelle's nephew and we're getting back late. Also, Esteban will not have the chance for a nap and so sleep is of the utmost importance tonight. Well ... for another evening I suppose. Happy almost Father's Day for the Father's out there!

A trop tard! (Until much later!)

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