Colostrum

by Dave Hanks

Colostrum is a thick milk. Mothers produce it for several days
after giving birth to their young ones. It is good for the baby because of the
extra nutrients and richness that it contains. It is thick and somewhat globular
– the color not a pure white but somewhat yellowish-orange. No matter it’s
assets, the physical consistency of it prevents older people from wanting to
drink it.

Milk cows are no exception and produce large quantities of it when they calve
each year. Milk from them is not sent to the creamery until all colostrum is
gone from the mammary glands. Dad always had a few Holsteins on the farm. He did
not believe in owning a milking machine and so the sons of the family, in turn,
got the opportunity to milk them by hand. When my turn came round, we had eight
to ten cows in production. I hated everyone of them. They would kick over milk
buckets and swat you with their dirty tail. Because off these feelings, the
results of the ensuing tale are somewhat surprising.

My parents were not in the habit of taking vacations, especially long ones.
In fact, this was the only one that I can remember. Even more surprising was
that I, the “baby” of the family, was left home alone and in charge. It was late
winter and the instructions were to dutifully look after the livestock, milk the
cows and deliver the milk to the creamery, and to “dry-up” a specific cow. Now
it’s a common practice in the dairy business to prepare a cow for her new calf
by giving her a rest from milk production. This is done by gradually reducing
her diet – which results in her giving less and less milk. You then stop milking
her and going dry is now less stressful to the cow. This is usually done a month
before her due date and gives her body a chance to recoup it’s reserves.

As much as I hated to milk, it was surprising that I didn’t follow my
instructions more carefully. That cow was not “dried” but milked right along
with the others.

Well the vacation progressed to a conclusion and I anticipated the family’s
return. As a farm family, much of our food was home produced and milk was no
exception. It was a Saturday evening and I expected the family to be home that
night. With this in mind, two extra gallons of milk would not go into the cans
for delivery to our local creamery. These would be placed in the family
refrigerator.

That evening I kept the first milk obtained and it happened to have come from
the cow in question. She had responded well that eve and it was with interest
that I noticed an increase in her production. The milk also seemed a little
heavy and colorful. Shrugging those facts off, that milk went into the kitchen –
chores were completed, and I eventually retired to bed.

Sunday morn broke bright and cheery. The family was home and the house was
a-bustle – out to do the milking – “hey, there’s a new calf out here!” But wait,
a knot rises in my stomach, I remember now that the cow didn’t get dried-up as
she was supposed to have been! Guiltily I examined the new calf and the cow.
Both seemed OK and none the worse for the experience. Being fearful of parental
discipline, I decided to keep my failure to follow orders a secret.

When alone, and at the first opportunity, I checked the refrigerator. The
cream had risen to the top. It had a light yellow tinge to it. In school we had
just learned about colostrum and now everything became clear in my brain. Two
gallon of colostrum was in the frige awaiting family consumption. Should I
reveal that fact to all? Discretion told me no.

The next few days were ones of great uneasiness. With heart in mouth, I would
sit quietly at the dinner table. My communications were minimal and I politely
refused milk when offered. It was with some amusement that I watched my two
older sisters drink that colostrum but I Must confess that I breathed much
easier when those two bottles were consumed and washed.

If anyone knew, they never mentioned it. Nor did I – until this moment of
confession!

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