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T HE only cattle my [...].

Byline: dorinda mccann

THE only cattle my dad kept were of the Aberdeen Angus variety, which were beef cattle, so our milk came from eight nanny goats, who had to be milked into a bucket every evening.

Along with my mother it was my job to milk them in their shed - an old ruined cottage divided into two sections, the pig sty and the goat shed. On cold winter evenings by the light of a hurricane lamp hung from the rafters I would bury my head into the side of the animal and listen to the soporific sound of the milk filling the white and blue enamelled bucket.

They all had their own personality. The matriarch - an old girl called Bebe - was feisty and fond of kicking out so I was never allowed to milk her, or Flossy, who was fond of dancing about and tipping over the bucket. My dad used to joke that we should have called her Ginger.

The one I used to dread was a little black and white one called Whisky, she was small and gentle but milking her was a long job - the milk would come out in a thin half hearted stream and I used to wish I was able to make the hole bigger like we did to the black rubber teat on the end of the bottle that we used to feed any struggling new born animal.

Gaerwen farm had lots of milking cows and I loved to be in the cowshed when they were being milked.

They too had their own character. One grey and white one called Lady had to have her feet up on the top of the manger before she'd allow herself to be milked and one red and white one called Posy had a really curly horn which ended up almost between her eyes. I never saw her but I thought of the cow with the crumpled horn in the old nursery rhyme The house that Jack built.

The farmer's son did the milking: he was gentle. He would put on a coat and wellies, then taking a bucket of warm water would go round all the cows washing their udders. He'd sit on a small three-legged stool and press his head into the creature's side sometimes swearing under his breath as the cow's tail swiped his face.

The milk was poured into churns which were loaded on the tractor and taken to the end of the lane to be picked up by a lorry from the Milk Marketing Board.

In 1959 when electricity came they had a milking machine installed. I was there on the first night they used it; made by a firm called Alpha Laval, it changed the cowshed from a place quiet enough to hear the cows chewing the cud to a place full pumping, clanking machinery.

Though the cows quickly got used to it, for me it had lost its peaceful magic.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 4, 2010
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