Milking Dairy Cows

I discovered several ways to milk dairy cows when I began working in the dairy industry. These ways to milk a dairy cow include doing so manually and by using a cow milking machine.

Manual milking of dairy cows was how I began learning initially to milk dairy cows. My father was so proficient at milking dairy cows manually that he would generate a lot of foam in his milk bucket. My father had a lot of experience because he was born between the two world wars on a southeast Georgia farm. I often use this to illustrate to my agriculture education students, that during at this time frame, almost every member of the family from child to adult was a part of putting food on the table so the family could eat and survive. Therefore, milking dairy cows for him was not fun; it was the survival of the family.

I have found that there are several skills to learning to manually milk a dairy cow. In my experience, these skills include both technique and muscle dexterity. The milking technique is best described as both a simultaneous squeeze and pull of the cow’s teat.

I found that I could “shoot” milk 20-25 feet once I mastered this skill. Some of my funnest memories include having college friends visit me on the dairy farm during weekends, and I would often shoot them with milk, in the face, straight from the cow’s teat. This was a pile of laughs for me.

Even when manually milking dairy cows, there are several types of equipment essential. First, maintaining the dairy cow in a pretty still position is a priority. This is essential to maintain a level of safety for the milker. This can be accomplished several ways, including haltering and tying the cow, perhaps using a stanchion system, like a cattle “head catcher.” Milking a dairy cow by hand can put yourself in a vulnerable position. Manual milkers will often sit on a short stool which is 3 legged and probably no taller than a foot.

Cleanliness is most important in milking a dairy cow. In most dairy operations, the dairy cow’s udder will experience several stages of washing and sanitizing before milking. They initially may be rinsed with a water hose. Then, the udder is usually washed with warm water and anti-bacterial soap. Sometimes, the dairy cow’s teats are teat-dipped with an iodine solution before milking as well. Then, the cow’s udder is dried using towels, air, or paper towels.