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The new milking parlor

Posted 5/30/2017 3:39pm by Kinley Coulter.


     Did you ever read the ‘Little House’ series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder? ‘Farmer Boy’, documenting the early life of Almanzo Wilder, Laura’s future husband, describes a traumatic event in his childhood where he threw a stove blacking brush at his sister in his mother’s prized parlor… the pride and joy of his Mother's home… leaving a disgraceful, indelible and awful stain on the wall of that sacred room. I was reminded of that episode the first time the boys let the cows into our spotless, gleaming, new milking parlor in March. The first cow to lift her tail and ‘leave a deposit’ on the perfect, new concrete got a withering look from Jason and Jacob after they had toiled for five months on their prized parlor.


     Construction on the farm always and only happens in the winter because, well, that’s the only time we can do it. So they excavated in freezing rain, ran heaters to keep the footer and concrete block from freezing, hung roof trusses and screwed on steel in the snow. They plowed snow off the ground to grade it for a sloped concrete floor until, FINALLY, they were out of the weather in the nascent parlor and could work indoors on plumbing and structural steel and electrical fixtures.


     Anyway, the parlor is well ‘broken in’ by now, and is doing the job it was built for, admirably. We can line up 12 cows at a time and get the milking done in an amazingly short time. The cows enjoy a taste treat, while being milked, of half a pound of organic cane sugar each day. They attack their treat with the vigor of a dozen preschoolers, eagerly racing to see who can lick a lollipop down to the stick the fastest. Cows are very contented on lush pasture, but they are downright giddy when they get a few licks of sugar during the morning milking. It makes the job of getting the herd through the parlor a breeze.


     The efficiency and cleanliness of the new parlor is a sight to see. Gleaming stainless steel dominates the landscape. We had to suffer through 4 years in our pathetic antique parlor to appreciate this new one. Milk is cooled from ‘cow temperature,’ about 100 degrees, to 35 degrees in seconds. The fragile molecules that give real milk its remarkable flavor are very vulnerable to breaking down under the stress of being pumped. Our milking parlor and processing room were designed to minimize pumping. We make extensive use of gravity to drain milk, and vacuum to lift it gently. The milk we bottle and the milk we use to make our yogurt, ice cream, cheeses, kefir, etc. are all only ever pumped one time between the cow and your refrigerator. This makes the most noticeable difference in cheese, where the remarkable and complex flavor enhancing molecules are concentrated and magnified during the cheesemaking process. The best milk is minimally pumped and the best cheese is only stirred very gently. It’s always wise to handle precious things carefully.

     We built this parlor to last. It wasn’t cheap but if it lasts the 25 years we designed it for, it will only have cost us $10 per day, or 10 cents per gallon of milk on a 100 gallon day. I’ll leave you to do the math on what it costs to build an efficient, modern, milking parlor with farm labor in this day and age… it’s too depressing to talk about big expenses like that… I like little numbers like 10 cents :). So, the next time you pour yourself a tall glass of rich, fresh, sun-golden organic milk from Coulter Farms, you can visualize where it came from a little better… and you’ll know what 10 cents of your purchase went to pay for!

Tags: parlor