‘Sorry Mrs,’ I say, as I fiddle muck off the udders

Every week, Dominique McMullan tries something new: This week, she milks a cow

‘Not a bad smell, just a very potent smell of farm; mud mixed with shite, rain and grass’

‘Not a bad smell, just a very potent smell of farm; mud mixed with shite, rain and grass’

 

This week I milked a cow. I was in Devon, England, visiting my grandparents and thought it was time to find out how Devonshire makes it so creamy. Milking starts early. At 6am while my family slept, I borrowed a pair of mucky wellies and set off into the night. It was one degree outside. My granddad lent me his uninsured, unlicensed truck with a "dodgy" clutch that runs on red diesel.

I only had to drive down a few country lanes, but felt like an intrepid explorer, a thousand shining red dots watched me in the hedges.

As I pulled into the dark yard, the smell hit me first. Not a bad smell, just a very potent smell of farm; mud mixed with shite, rain and grass. Colin the farmer came out to greet me with a bemused look. “Well, you made it then.”

The milking had already begun. We watched the cows file in and out from a pit below ground level. Tens of udders swung at face level. The steaming beasts were titanic from below. They lined up, backsides facing us, and equipment hung ominously all around.

Udders were sprayed with a disinfectant and wiped. It felt a bit intrusive. “Sorry Mrs,” I said as I reached under and awkwardly fiddled the muck off each soft, thumb-sized teet. “These are the young mums,” Colin told me. “Be gentle as they can be a bit nervous.”

A suction tube was attached to each udder. As it gripped, it made similar sound to when I had a job in a petrol station and you had to deposit every €100 in a shoot. It was pleasing.

Behind me, a worker topped up his coffee straight from the creamy white pipe that ran along the length of the shed. I drink almond milk in my coffee and my beverage choice is usually sneered at, except in the most hipster of cafes. I drink it because I like the taste of it. Judge if you will. I also watched Cowspiracy once and if that doesn’t put you off cow milk then nothing will.

But after delivering milk from source I felt different. I joined the worker for a fresh, unpasteurised brew. It tasted deliciously creamy and well, like milk (maybe a little like cow poo too, but that could have been coming from me). I left as the sun was rising and with a litre Coke bottle full of fresh milk, covered in mud, nestled under my arm. Colin got ready to do it all again in six hours.

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