Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply and give advice, it is much appreciated! Sorry it took me so long to reply but my computer has been broken and I'm only now able to get back online. I did manage to read the suggestions before I was cut off so here's what we've been doing and how it's been going:
- We've been working on her stress and comfort and she is a lot less fussy in the stall. She is getting used to the machine and is being led much more calmly into the stall (without needing to be bribed by oats!) that feels much better for all of us.
-We feel we've got the hang of the machine and seem to have got it working as it should be. Though it is a surge milker it has very long tubes on it so it sits to the side on the ground not hanging down.
- We've enlisted the help of her calf, when she stops releasing milk we've been bringing him in and giving him one of her teats while we milk the rest, we've had a nice amount of cream this week and I've even made butter!
- After milking we're keeping her in the stall with her calf while he nurses, this seems to be helping her to associate the stall with nursing him and letting her milk down.
- We've been getting 4-5 litres a day which is a huge improvement for us and keeping us in dairy quite happily.
- Her milk let down is slow and her production seems to have levelled out at a gallon, she is separated from the calf each night so that seems way lower than it should be. I worry we've messed up and that her production is levelling out not improving.
- I worry she will start holding out on us to get us to bring in the calf!
- If her production is low could it be she is missing something from her diet? They are now on hay so I worry I need to get a more complete dairy ration to boost her carbs. There is an organic producer near here that does a mixed dairy ration that might work.
- Today her back left quarter seemed to have barely any milk, that was the one I gave the calf to try and stimulate it, I worry there is something wrong there.
My mind is split into two camps, one saying we are not getting as much milk as we should be, she isn't 'paying her way' and that we should go to twice a day milking to boost her up. Honestly I don't even know what that would mean in terms of the calf etc, so that feels a bit scary too. I also wonder if we are doing something wrong.
On the other hand I'm thinking woohoo 4litres a day! We are getting what we need, so is the calf, she is happy and calm and when we wean the calf we'll be getting loads more milk anyway. This way I'm not overwhelmed in the kitchen with way too much milk while I'm still learning to manage it and she isn't exhausted going into the winter. I also think this is the beginning of a long relationship and setting a good grounding now will also be more valuable than anything else. Am I just being silly with this thinking? I worry that if we don't develop her into a strong milker now she'll never be a good producer, her udder is quite small but I wonder if that is because this is her first calf and that she'll produce more as she ages and calves out more.
Sorry I know this is long! Any thoughts or suggestions greatly appreciated as always : )