A Brief History of Milking Cows by Hand


| 7/16/2014 11:32:00 AM


Tags: dairy cows, milking, microdairy, Vermont, Steve Judge,

hand milking

There are essentially two ways to milk a cow. The first is the age-old practice of milking by hand. The second is by machine with buckets and pipeline milkers. More on this second method in my next blog. Cows, goats, sheep, water buffalo, camels and, even, horses have been successfully milked by hand for thousands of years. I milked my first cows by hand back in the 1970s. Milking a cow by hand is not as easy as it may first appear, so it’s best to know what you are getting into before you take on this important farming task.  

Get your technique down. There are a couple of different grips and techniques you can use, which before machine milking, were a matter of great debate.  I think the most important thing you can do when hand milking is to squeeze the milk out without pulling down excessively on the teat. It’s similar to getting tooth paste out of a tooth paste tube.  

Practice. Find a patient and tolerant cow to practice on when you are first learning. Once you learn the skill it becomes second nature.    

Get in shape. My wife's great-great-grandmother was a milkmaid in Denmark. Stories of her having to take breaks between cows to rest her hands on the cool stone walls of the milking stable for relief have been passed down through our family for generations. When you first begin milking a cow by hand, you will find muscles in your hands and forearms that you seem to only use when you hand milk. Until they get into shape, your arms will burn.

Keep everything clean. If you milk by hand, it is imperative to keep your cows and their udder clean. You don't want manure or bedding falling into the milk bucket. Everything you use—the bucket, utensils and vessels that will come into contact with the milk—must be squeaky clean. 


willkat@gmail.com
7/19/2014 9:18:02 AM

I can hand milk a cow giving 32-40 pounds a day in about 20-30 minutes. And that's including bottling the milk and having it set to chill. After, clean up is simply washing the milking bucket. No lines, claws, or inflations to clean, which you need to factor into your time estimates. In a small dairy situation, which for me means 3 cows or less, I'm much faster as a hand milker.




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