Wednesday, July 25, 2012

With a Moo Moo here, a Moo Moo there....

Well, I said I was a "country girl" and that I am, but I never actually lived on a farm when I write about my younger days. 

My dad was a cow tester; AKA milk tester. That means that he worked for the USDA through Rutgers University in NJ, driving all up and down the state, going to every farm that sold milk, testing the milk by taking samples. He (I think) was the only tester of two who did this back in the 40's for the entire state. 

Many times I went with him to the nearby ones. Many other times he was away overnight due to their distance from our home. Several farms tested three times a day and he would take a "sample" from each cow at each milking time. When he stayed at the farm overnight he was provided with all meals and a place to sleep.

I'd like to now try to explain to you just what he did as I reminisce back to those days. The memories are very vivid, but I can't guarantee if they are accurate. That's what happens as time passes. 

Dad had "barn clothes." He would either take these or wear them to the farms. When he returned home, they had to be hung in our cellarway due to having the "barn smell." That was one of my mother's rules. I do remember, however, that at least one of the farms provided pure white coveralls and a hat to be worn in their barn! Boots were mandatory. Boots were a choice in most cases, anyway, because of the muddy yards, snowy driveways, and barn interiors. 

Back to what he actually did. Remember that I'm trying to describe his tools and procedures as best as I can. Dad was a very jovial person, so greetings and handshakes were the first to happen. Why? Well, a milk tester tested each cow's milk once a month. The tests were to document butterfat content. A high producing cow and her female calves were more valuable due to the production record and its dam's and genetic line. Somewhere in the mix, the bulls were considered regarding milk production. I never did know if his tests were also for other reasons, but the farm managers and owners wanted to keep him in their good graces so they could continue with having quality records of those tests. I seem to remember it was called production testing.

Recording data: Dad had sheets of paper with blank cow body outlines and a blank cow head and drew in each cow's markings. The paper also contained information such as their names, ear tag numbers, and time of milking and amount of milk produced at the specific milking. He did this all by hand written work, mostly at home on the old desk in the sun parlor.

In those days most milking was done by hand, but the wealthier farms and the more progressive ones started using surgers. Each pail of milk from each cow was hung on his scale, which was certified, and he wrote down the weights. 

Back home he set up and maintained equipment to process the samples he collected. This included his shiny brass-front spring scale, centrifuge, acid, caliper bottles and pipettes, calipers, many little bottles and a carrier for them, and his record books. 

This is how the testing is actually described: "The process of testing milk begins with the introduction of a small quantity of amyl alcohol into a glass test bottle. To this liquid was added a small sample of milk through a pipette, delivered into the glass bottle. Strong sulphuric acid was then added, with a wooden cork placed over the neck of the bottle to achieve  firm seal. The contents were then shaken vigorously until it became a hot solution of a light brown color. Before placing the glass bottle in the centrifugal machine, a small quantity of diluted sulphuric acid was added. The machine was then worked (in the early days with a hand crank) for about half a minute or until all the contents appeared as a clear yellow oil. The quantity of remaining contents were then read from a scale present on the side of the glass testing bottle." 

YES! that is exactly what my pop did! He later put the bottles in his bottle carrier, took it out to our driveway, and shook it all out over the grass that grew down the middle. OH!

His sample bottle carrier was one he probably made with a sheet of copper and solder with a wire carry handle. I remember the pretty greenish solder marks. 

Well, I just have relived some of my trips to the farms with "Pop." More later..............I'll have to tell you what I did while he was collecting those test samples!


  1. You probably were hunting snakes. lol My grandfather used to go and get milk fresh from the farm when I was a little girl. It had fat that rose to the top. Yuck.