Delilah helps family along milky way

Richard Fitzpatrick milks Delilah while daughters Anna (left) and Elly keep watch. Photo by...
Richard Fitzpatrick milks Delilah while daughters Anna (left) and Elly keep watch. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
While more people are trying to stretch their food budgets by growing vegetables, and one or two are adding a few hens to their urban estates, not many have gone as far as the Fitzpatrick family of Mount Cargill in Dunedin.

For the past five years, they have been milking their own cow and, as a result, the family - Richard, Cy and their three daughters, Anna (7), Elly (11) and Mikhaila (15) - have all the fresh milk, cheese, butter and ice-cream they can eat, all for the price of a paddock of grass.

The couple began with goats, but "progressed" to a jersey cow called Annie Rose, so they would get more cream.

Initially, they milked her by hand - with, sometimes, Mr Fitzpatrick on the front teats and Mrs Fitzpatrick the rear.

However, problems arose when the family wanted to go away for holidays. Friends and relatives were not keen to step in.

So, they bought a small milking machine and Mr Fitzpatrick has settled, comfortably, into a routine of rising at 5.30am and milking Annie Rose's successor, Delilah, at 6am.

"It just seems normal now. It seems weird when she's not milking and we have to go and buy milk at the supermarket. It doesn't taste nearly as good."

Mr Fitzpatrick points out the family are "sharemilkers" - the cow's calf taking half the milk.

Even so, they get 8-10 litres of fresh milk each day; half of which they drink fresh, the rest being turned into milk products, including camembert and brie. Anything left over, goes to the hens.

Mr Fitzpatrick finds warm milk straight from the cow too fresh for his taste and he prefers to leave it to cool overnight in the fridge.

He estimates Delilah's milk remains good to drink for up to a week, but it never lasts that long.

He says it is very important to ensure all containers are kept clean - washed first with cold water and then with hot water and detergent.

It is also important to keep the milk cool.

He estimates the family drinks $40 of fresh milk each week, without taking into account the other milk products they produce.

Delilah cost more than $600 to buy and she will require up to 100 bales of hay for the winter.

Otherwise, her "running costs" are low.

Milking a house cow is not something people would stick with just to save money, Mr Fitzpatrick says. They would really need to enjoy it.



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