How do You Milk a Cow?
Depending on where and when you grew up, the thought of milking a cow may conjure up images of a farmer sitting on a short stool, milking the cow by hand into a bucket.
Most dairy farmers have buildings called milking parlors, where their cows go to be milked two to three times a day, depending on the farm. The farmer’s employees will use these milking machines or “milkers” to milk the cow, which only takes five to seven minutes on average per cow. Depending on the type of farm, the farmer may have robotic milkers which allow cows to be milked whenever they want.
While you can certainly find instances of farmers milking by hand here and there, most U.S. dairy farmers haven’t milked by hand in a while – a long while, actually. Milking machines were developed more than 100 years ago for a few reasons. First, they allow a cow to be milked the same way every way, which is more comfortable for them. Plus, it’s more efficient than milking by hand. The first milking machine was patented in 1907, and it’s how most of the world now milks its cows.
Before a cow is milked, the cow's udder and teats are cleaned to help keep the cow comfortable and healthy and to ensure milk quality. Then, the milking machine is attached to each cow. The milker may have a hard stainless steel exterior, but the inside – which attaches to the cow – is anything but. It consists of a soft rubber liner that uses gentle suction to remove the milk in a natural way. At that point, the milk travels through sanitized pipes directly to a tank where the milk is quickly cooled to a minimum 45 degrees or cooler to keep it fresh. Learn more about milk’s trip from farm to table here.
Learn more about how cows are milked by watching this video.