Atlas y Calendario de Fiestas del Patrimonio Cultural de Panamá

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Traditional Milking


[Calves are separated from their mothers since the afternoon, so they wouldn't drink all the milk.]

Calves are separated from their mothers since the afternoon, so they wouldn't drink all the milk.


[The cow is tied. Her calf is placed nearby, so the cow wouldn't be stressed out.]

The cow is tied. Her calf is placed nearby, so the cow wouldn't be stressed out.


[After tying together the hind legs, so the cow can't move or kick the milk bucket, the milking can begin.]

After tying together the hind legs, so the cow can't move or kick the milk bucket, the milking can begin.


[This is a closeup of the udder.]

This is a closeup of the udder.


[Once the milking bucket is full, the milk is deposited in bigger metal buckets.]

Once the milking bucket is full, the milk is deposited in bigger metal buckets.


[After the milking ends, cow and calf are allowed to be together. The cow always

After the milking ends, cow and calf are allowed to be together. The cow always "hide" some milk so that her calf can drink it.


By:

Marino Jaén Espinosa
2013-03-11

Traditional or manual milking is a dying art. However, there are still people who practice it in Panama's countryside.

While it seems like a simple activity, it takes several steps in order to properly and safely doing it. The first step is to separate the calf from the cow, hours before the milking takes place. This is done so that the calf doesn't drink all the milk.

The milking takes place very early in the morning, usually before dawn. The milker must be very disciplined in doing it every day at roughly the same time. Special care must be taken to be gentle to the cow and calf. It is better that the same person does the milking every day to that the cow gets used to him. Some milkers even give names to individual cows, whistle and talk to them in endearing ways. The goal of all these actions is to make the cow feel as much comfortable as possible, so that she is not stressed out and is able to produce and release a good volume of milk. Under no circumstances the daily milking should be skipped because if that happens and the calf ends up drinking all the milk, it could get sick and suffer from diarrhea because it is not used to drink so much milk anymore.

Before the milking starts, the milker must tie the cow to the corral and tie the calf in sight of the cow, so she knows it is there. Then, the milker must tie together both hind legs of the cow so she doesn't move around, step on the milker's feet or kick the milk bucket. The milker must wash his hands and the cow's udder. This is done both for the hygiene of the milk that is to be consumed by humans, and for the well being of the cow, who otherwise could catch and infection that could provoke mastitis and grave economic loss for the producer.

After all these preparations, the milker positions the bucket under the udder, sits on a small chair and manipulate de udders so that the milk flows into the bucker. After several minutes, when the milking is over, the milk is poured into a bigger metal bucket for transportation. Then, cow and calf are allowed together, and the calf can drink the milk that the cow has reserved for it.

This is how traditional milking is still done. Years ago, it was customary to drink the milk right after the milking while still warm. However, new safety procedures and the fact that few people today are used to this, make industrial processing of the milk the most commont path to enjoy a delicious glass of nutritious milk.


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