I’d like to start a discussion on using a milking machine vs. hand milking a family cow. We are getting our first dairy cow this spring from a friend and she is currently in milk. I am kind of old-fashioned and have this idea I’d rather just hand milk into a bucket and keep things simple, but many people seem to think that’s a silly notion. I’ve been mulling the pros and cons for weeks. As far as machines go, anybody know any good and affordable options? Help me work this out y’all!
Hi Liv, thanks for following up. We have a big traditional horse barn with 5 extra large stalls. I am planning to turn the stall adjacent the tack room into a little milking parlor, keeping it clean and closed so the horse, donkeys, etc. can’t get in there and dirty it up. I plan to put together a stanchion of some sort out of 2x4’s (or maybe pallets) because that’s what she’s used to. She is a large jersey cow. 5 years old. Been hand and machine milked. They milk her from behind instead of the side and have her in a stanchion where she eats feed while being milked. She last calved about 8 months ago I believe. She is very calm and well trained, but not much into being loved on or scratched. I have watched her being milked at the seller’s place. I have milked a goat a handful of times but it was a long time ago. I have 4 kids (10, 7, 4, and 2). We homeschool so they’re always underfoot. 😊 They usually come along and help me or play in the tack room when I do my daily barn chores. I figure I can relatively easily add milking to the mix. I enjoy the farm chores, so I don’t consider it “work.” The 2 older kids are very helpful. The cow is only being milked once a day, which I plan to continue. I like the cleanliness of a machine, but again, I’m just a simple person and would prefer to have 1 bucket vs. all those hoses and such to clean. I appreciate any and all suggestions/ advice!
Like I said before, totally doable to milk by hand.
You probably know all these things, but maybe it’s helpful to reinforce some ideas.
It’s really good that you know the people you are getting her from, and that she already has been through several lactations ( I am assuming she has, at her age). It’s much more complicated for someone new to start with a cow that is also new☺️, to milking that is.
Hopefully, she is healthy, no diseases, has never had mastitis, and so on. Oh, and confirmed pregnant.
Not having milked before much, it will be hard until your hands get used with it. In my opinion, the more comfortable your position, the faster you’ll get better. Find a stool that will help, you’ll know what I mean when you’ll start. For instance, when I milk by hand I need to support my elbows on my legs, otherwise my arms get so tired right away.
Milking once a day definitely helps.
The cleanliness factor: keep her and the area she sleeps in as clean as you possibly can. Whatever bedding you choose to use, remove manure and urine soiled bedding as often as needed, depending on season and climate you’re in.
After milking, use a milk filter to strain the milk, and cool it as soon as possible.
Feed her good feed, preferably start as close as possible with stuff she’s used to eat before you get her to your place, and make any changes gradually.
In you choose to milk by hand, I’d invest in a good stainless steel milking bucket. With care, it will last forever. After you’dw done milking, just wash it, and put it upside down to dry.
If you choose a milking machine system, I’d also not get something low quality. Also, keep in mind, to clean the machine, - for most types if machines, except surge milker, you need to have hot water ( or be able to carry it) to where your vacuum pump is. So yes, milking with machine takes less time, but cleaning it takes longer.
I am not really advocating for one or the other, only trying to make a point that you can get good, clean milk with hand milking.
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
I’m curious what way you decided going? We’ve been hand milking for a year now, but looking to add cow #2 and I’m looking for a good setup to offer us the luxury to not do by hand when needed! I’m also exploring milking on pasture to minimize the travel to the barn so would love any input or pictures of a mobile setup if anyone has!
My first cow--a giant Guernsey-- did NOT like to be milked by hand. AT ALL. Weeks of trying, including roping in a farm mate to milk the other 2 teats so we could get it done in half the time... Boy was I happy to get a good quality ($2k-ish) milking machine. She stood blissfully still with the machine from day 1.
And a very good point about a machine being way easier to get other people to milk when you are away/break your wrist or finger/just don't feel like milking/want to avoid carpal tunnel.
When I was milking by machine, I would take a bucket of hot water and a bucket of cold water with a tbsp of bleach in it out to the barn and run that through the milking machine after every twice-a-day milking. I am not by nature a very hygienic person and the level of detailed scrubbing and tubing inspection necessary for any milking machine eventually made it not worth it. Sold the cow, and since the milking machine was good quality I was able to sell it for a decent price.
I hand-milk my 3 goats, 2 Nigeriand and one Lamancha with dream teats. The people I got my original goats from said, "Oh, it's not worth having a milking machine unless you get up to about 13 does." These were Nigerian Dwarfs.
I underestimated the hand strength and endurance necessary to milk a cow (and goat, for that matter, though Nigerian Dwarfs were good "gateway dairy animals" for me and my small hands). My top advice for new milkers? PRACTICE ON A RUBBER GLOVE. Poke a pinhole at the tip of the finger, and fill the glove with water, then practice squirting water out the pinhole without yanking down on the finger. This gives your hand muscles a chance to learn the motion before you need to grab an animal's tender bits. All new humans at our farm must be able to milk a glove in less than a minute if they want regular access to the goats.
And expect at least 2 weeks of fussy, pail-kicking milking as you and she gets used to it. You might literally cry over spilt milk. Routine is invaluable, especially for cows. Spending time bonding with your cow, and scratching good itches for her, will pay off in milking room peace.
Alexia of Hawthorn Farm
Diego Footer on Permaculture Based Homesteads - from the Eat Your Dirt Summit