How to Milk a Cow

When I began working in the dairy industry, I was fascinated with the ways to milk a cow. There are several ways to do so. They include manually and with a cow milking machine.

Milking Cows by Hand

Milking cows by hand was the way that I learned initially to milk cows. My dad was so good at milking cows by hand that his milk bucket would actually have a fair amount of foam in it. Now, my dad was born between the two world wars on a southeast Georgia farm. Just like I tell my agriculture students, at this time, almost every member of the family was involved in actually helping to put food on the table so the family could survive. So, milking for him was not a novelty when he was a child; it was survival.

There are several factors to learning to milk a cow by hand. In my opinion, these include technique and muscle dexterity. The technique can best be described as a simultaneous squeeze and pull of the cow’s teat.

Once this is mastered, it is possible to “shoot” milk 20-25 feet. When college friends would visit me on the dairy, I would often shoot them with milk, in the face. This was great fun.

There are several types of equipment needed when milking cows by hand. First, holding the cow still in one position is a priority. This is essential so that the milker will have a level of safety. This may be done by haltering and tying the cow, using a stanchion system, or a cattle head catcher. One has to put himself in a vulnerable position to milk a cow. Usually, they will sit on a short stool that is 3 legged and no taller than a foot.

Next, cleanliness is very important. Usually, a cow’s udder will go through several stages of washing and sanitizing prior to milking. First, they may be rinsed with a water hose. Next, they are probably washed with warm water and anti-bacterial soap. They may be teat-dipped with an iodine solution prior to milking as well. Lastly, the udder is dried with either clean towels or paper towels.