Boots and Heels Blog: Milking a cow by hand

Some people want to swim with dolphins, others swear they will skydive, and some prefer to keep it simple.

Me? My childhood bucket list had a diverse array of dreams, with one in particular that often appeared questionable to others.

‘I want to milk a cow by hand’, I used to tell my parents.

If you could go back and tell 10-year-old me that one day, she’d finally get to tick that wish off her list, you’d have seen a young, chubby-cheeked Lizzie light up with excitement.

About the author

Boots and Heels: Lizzie
Coming, as I do, from a non-farming family, I am the “heels” in the Boots and Heels duo. Neither my background nor my choice of shoes could ever hold back my passion for farming, though.  I joined the agricultural world almost four years ago in a marketing role for the poultry sector. I was immediately hooked on this brilliant industry, and I now work as community editor for Farmers Weekly, where I can spread the word!  Through “Boots and Heels”, Becca and I aim to prove that to everyone with an interest in where our food comes from.
Read more articles by Boots and Heels: Lizzie

During the first leg of the Boots and Heels UK tour, Becca and I were fortunate enough to visit organic dairy farmer and Arla supplier Sophie Gregory, and enjoy a day getting hands-on around the farm.

Although Sophie trained as an accountant, it’s easy to see why she turned her hand to farming, with her infectious enthusiasm and willingness to teach others.  

For the first part of the day, we were welcomed with a good brew in the farmhouse – something I’m noticing with most farmers – and kicked off the activities with bedding up.

Does that mean changing the sheets or laying the duvets for the cows?, I hear you ask. While that may seem laughable to farmers, it’s questions such as these that give the public and those new to the industry a chance to learn.

So, we began our day bedding up – using wheat straw in the calf pens to create a warm and comfy place for the youngsters to stay.

The calves were eager to suckle on our fingers, a real delight to any newcomer on farm.

See how we got on in the first part of Boots and Heels with Sophie Gregory here:

Put to the test

With Sophie’s active social media presence, we thought we’d put her to the test with a round of quick-fire questions. What couldn’t she live without? Does she have a favourite breed of cow? Is she Team Boots or Heels? You’ll see by my jiggle how I felt about the latter.

You can catch up on the quick-fire questions with Sophie here:

Pulling the udders

Finally, the time came. We’d seen the cows, met the “Queen” of the herd, and learned about Sophie’s involvement with educating schoolchildren.

Now, all that was left was to squeeze the udders, as I had imagined doing for so long.

I gloved up and made my way to the milking parlour. Did you know that milk from the cow has more fat that the blue-topped milk we buy? I do now, thanks to Sophie.

I was ready, prepared to take on the challenge. I was anticipating a jelly-like feel, such as sand in a rubber glove, but was surprised to find the tough texture of the teat. I gently pulled and the warm milk escaped. I smiled and the young girl within me beamed.

Sophie praised my natural ability and explained how the milk from the cows becomes the milk in our supermarkets.

It was an experience I’ll never forget.

You can watch the full milking here: