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Surviving the apocalypse

Forget about reality TV, this is how you play Survivor.

Forget about reality TV, this is how you play Survivor.

Milked a cow last month as part of my 'Preparing for the Apocalypse' checklist. I'm also learning how to dig a well, use a crossbow, gut an animal and cut lumber; however, grabbing a handful of cow boob seemed like the simplest activity to start with.

You might notice all these skills infer the absence of electric power and fossil fuel, which seems prudent because I'm guessing the End of Days won't be proudly sponsored by AGL and BP.

And I was wrong about milking a cow being easy; there's a definite trick to it, while also avoiding being kicked in the head or trampled, shat upon and otherwise contaminating your milk.

"So what?" I hear you say, you get yours from the supermarket?

Yeah, well, you'll be one of the bodies I step over when Armageddon arrives - when burning cinders fall from smoke-filled skies, when hair-dryer hot winds suck the tears from your children's eyes, when the lights never come back on and four-legged reptiles feast on corpses in Canberra.

And I'll have fresh milk and cheese.

People talk about owning a dog or cat as a "commitment" but it's not a patch on caring for a dairy cow. Morning and night you have to milk her and the work is truly not done until the 'cows come home' and you've emptied their udders.

A dairy cow produces about 25 litres of milk a day once she's had her first calf and she'll keep producing as long as she's fed, you keep milking her and she doesn't get eaten by wild dogs or poachers (that's what the crossbow is for).

A cow is an immensely valuable asset, which is why most early farmer's houses were really just one big room, split into a space for the humans and a stable to keep the animals safe inside.

It's also how we got diseases like smallpox, measles and tuberculosis, which all evolved from various ancient pathogens carried by cattle.

So, wash your hands and clean the cow's teats with some soapy water before you start, and stroke the udder gently to relax Daisy's lady muscles and bring her milk down.

Of course, prior to doing this, you've tethered her to a pole, given her a bucket of feed to keep her happy and perhaps tied off her outer hind leg if she's a kicker.

Sitting cross-legged to milk a cow might seem soulful but is not advisable, as you can't scramble quickly enough to dodge hooves and hot green poop. A stool - the type you sit on - is recommended.

Start with the teats farthest from you, pinching them high-up near the udder with your thumb and forefinger to close off the flow of milk, then use your remaining three fingers to squeeze open the teat's sphincter and out squirts the milk.

If you know what you're doing, it'll take about half an hour to empty the udder and you'll have about 10 litres of fresh milk from which you can make cream, butter, cheese and yoghurt.

And won't that come in handy at the end of civilisation?

The Mycenaeans, forerunners to the Ancient Greeks, ruled the Mediterranean for 400 years before their civilisation was wiped out by unknown forces.

They left behind thousands of clay tablets written in a language known as Linear B, which when translated in the 1950s were revealed to be land and tax records listing the possessions of citizens. One tablet even records the name of an individual cow.

Archaeologists still do not know the name of a single Mycenaean king or why they perished, but they do know the name of one of their cows.

I think I would have liked the Mycenaeans.

Next week: How to fire a crossbow.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.


  • i got lemons, mandarins, parlsey and chickweed if you want to swap anything.
    good luck.

    Date and time
    November 18, 2013, 11:35PM
    • Sam, I have trouble imagining a contented cow in your post armegeddon scenario! Oh well, maybe I could get myself a goat or sheep online off oxfam? So I had better go stock up on that soap......

      No Daisies
      Date and time
      November 18, 2013, 11:46PM
      • exactly, there wont be any cows , and if there are they wont be alive long.unless the farmers got plenty of bullets and doesnt need to sleep.

        Date and time
        November 19, 2013, 8:54AM
    • We'd make quite a (paranoid) pair. Things I've done outside my comfort zone include learning to ride motorbikes, fly light planes and shoot guns - all with a view to "one day it might come in handy", particularly the first two in terms of escaping immediate danger. With the guns, I don't own one but once explained to a doubtful friend that I may one day come into contact with a gun in a dangerous situation that came out of the blue and should at least have an idea of how not to hurt myself... and two weeks later the Mumbai hotel siege happened. My point exactly! Then there's the emergency cupboard; with wind up torches and radios and other bits and pieces, I always make sure I have a gas bbq no matter how small and a stove top kettle in case I have to boil water and, let's face it, have an occasional tepid bath! I've also heard that in the case of natural disaster or pandemic that authorities caution we should all be able to be self sufficient for up to 14 days as that may be how long it takes for them to mobilise (just look at the sad situation in the Philippines at the moment, It'll be at least that long for most people). I don't want to add to the woes in those situations, so would like to think I could pull my weight and not be an unnecessary burden on very limited emergency resources. If I didn't live in a 2nd level walk up, I'd probably invest in a bunker. I'm only half joking.
      With the cow, I'm not so good with dairy, so I'd probably swap it out for a goat. Easier on the balcony too.

      Planet Earth
      Date and time
      November 19, 2013, 12:01AM
      • You learnt to shoot a fire arm, rifle, pistol, weapon but not a gun. A gun is a low trajectory artillery piece which is crew serviced.

        General rule of thumb, butt towards, barrell towards the target and you shouldn't hurt yourself. Just careful not to catch yourself on the cocking handle/leaver and remember to check the safety catch!

        Date and time
        November 19, 2013, 2:49PM
      • @RA22 - It's also acceptable to call a machine gun and a shotgun a gun.

        Date and time
        November 22, 2013, 10:46AM
    • It is one thing that I never learnt to do at my uncle's farm. They only had a few cows but they knew someone else was on the teat as it were and moved around badly. My cousins would squirt the raw milk up as I sat or leant on the rail in the old bails.
      Modern milk does not stop at the end of the milking, there is alot of washing that needs to be done so that the machinery is ready for the afternoon milking. There is no way they can deliver $1 per litre milk sustainably.
      Once milked, in a small home farm the milk has to be separated. Poured into a manual separator and turned. Cream is then taken to be churned into butter which takes a long time.
      Pasteurisation should also be done, so after the apocalypse some heat will be required.
      Most townies, and I am one, will of course expire quickly and a few small groups might survive.
      Of course there will be a short period of outright anarchy so hoarders will be on their guard. What will M be hoarding, best not to know.
      Of course many people will go crazy first. Imagine them lining up at their favourite cafe, hipster cool or in inner city black waiting on the doors to open. No power, no machine working, let alone no milk for capuccino. The draw can be as long as you like unless you have one of those expresso machines that sit on a fire.
      Imagine, there you are, with your exclusive blend just ground by hand in the pot, the water almost to boil, suddenly the aroma drives a mob of coffee zombies from nowhere toward you.
      Anarchy or do you insist they all line up. Who knows?

      The Old Guy
      Date and time
      November 19, 2013, 12:02AM
      • Ah yes. The loss of the beloved caffeinated beverages with create riot conditions in the Inner West for many days at least.
        So far I have hoarded a snazzy wardrobe, many pairs of shoes and a vast collection of kitchenware. I reckon all I would really need would be a large pot, some kind of fire containment thingy, some seasoned wood for burning, lots of matches and mountains of baby wipes. My freezer is stocked for the apocalypse at the best of times and I guess I'll need to stocked up on tinned food.
        I have been reading the posts on the Zombie Research Society web site about the prepper food that is available. I think I'd rather starve than eat some of them.
        You have reminded me that I should purchase some more tools to go with my tomahawk.

        Date and time
        November 19, 2013, 8:14AM
    • 'four-legged reptiles feast on corpses in Canberra'

      That always happens when Parliament is in session.

      western Vic
      Date and time
      November 19, 2013, 1:27AM
      • Don't you realise they've created the powdered cow, in all prerequisite forms? While others like your adventurous self spend their life trying not to be shat on, I'm gunna settle back waiting for the re-homogenisation of the dairy farmer's industry, sipping White Russians {from my freeze-dried potato vodka still} and learning to say 'I told you this would happen' in five or six languages.

        Date and time
        November 19, 2013, 6:10AM

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