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How to Milk a Cow

Last Updated: 22.04.24


There are various ways in which you can milk a cow, some including professional units such as a cow milking machine. If you are interested in such types of equipment, you might also want to check out what an automatic cattle feeder has to offer. If, however, you need to milk a cow by hand, then this article will surely prove to be useful.

Milking a cow is not actually as easy as you might think, particularly because these animals have different personalities and you will need to adapt to each individual case. Moreover, a cow can choose to let you milk her or not.

For this reason, you need to be as gentle with the animal as possible and try to avoid causing any stress. With this in mind, let’s see what steps you need to take in order to successfully get that bucket of fresh milk you’ve been waiting for.


Secure the cow

Before doing anything else, you need to make sure that the cow’s head is secured so that she doesn’t go for a stroll as your are milking her. You need to make sure that a halter is placed on her, since you will use the lead end to secure her to a sturdy post. It’s important for the environment to be low-stress and quiet, so that she is as comfortable as possible.

If she gets scared or anxious about anything, the entire process will be a lot harder than it should be. Farms usually have something called a stanchion, which is in fact a box-like structure that can be used to secure a cow’s head for multiple purposes, including milking or getting her vaccinated.



Get her ready

When this is done, you need to gently approach her and slowly move towards cleaning the udder. Although you might think this sounds silly, don’t hesitate to speak in a low voice and pat her, in order to make sure she knows you are there and that she is comfortable with your presence.

Given the way their eyes are positioned, cows can see everything around them, except for what is in front or behind them, therefore they have a vision that ranges 300 degrees. This might sound great, but they also have a poor perception of depth, so if you do talk to the cow, she will be able to determine your whereabouts without getting scared.

Keep your movements as slow and gentle as possible and tie her tail to one of the legs in order to prevent any swishes in your direction. While it might come loose after a while, this is definitely something that you need to do.


Some protection measures

Next you will need to use some soapy water to wash the teats before starting the actual milking process, since this means you’ll prevent dirt or bacteria from getting into the milk. It’s a very good idea to use warm water for this, since this also helps her bring down the milk.

When you are done washing them, use a clean cotton cloth to dry the teats, as this prevents any soap or dirty water from getting into the bucket. Make sure that you use gentle motions and that you avoid irritating her, since teats can be painful, especially if they are filled with milk.

You might also want to protect your own hands for a safe and sanitary milking process, since these can also carry bacteria that might contaminate the milk or get transmitted to the cow. Therefore, you should use a pair of latex gloves.

It’s true that some people lose dexterity if they use gloves. If you would prefer to not wear any, you need to thoroughly wash your hands. Then you can apply some lubricant, such as udder balm, in order to minimize the level of friction. Such a product is normally available at local dedicated stores.


As for the actual milking…

Before placing the bucket underneath the udder, you need to strip each teat for 3 or 4 times. This means pulling down on it, just as you do when you milk it, but without collecting the milk, since these first small quantities can contain dirt or bacteria from the milk ducts. When you are done with this as well, you are ready to get started.

Position the bucket in the most appropriate spot under the udder, so that you can easily direct the milk towards it, and proceed to milking the cow. You might want to hold it between your legs, since this way you can prevent kicks that could accidentally spill it.

For some cows it’s better to munch on something as you milk them, so have some grin or hay within reach and see if it’s necessary. Also, you want to choose a position that will allow you to quickly move away in case she is no longer willing to cooperate. Keep in mind that these are heavy and strong animals, so you need to think about being safe as well.

It’s actually safer to sit as close to the cow as possible, since she might knock you over, but without really hitting you with some momentum. Then choose 2 out of the 4 teats and wrap a hand around them, using the first finger and the extended thumb to start squeezing down.



Some other tips  

In case you are not sure for how long you need to milk a cow, a good indicator is when the quarter of the udder you are milking starts to look deflated. If at first the udder is firm and tight, as you milk it, you will notice that it starts to look saggy and feel softer.

Once you are done with the first two teats, move onto the other two. If you grab them on a diagonal, you don’t need to move your chair on the other side of the cow. If you choose to milk them on one side and then on the other, you will see that it’s easier to switch your position as well. Once you’re done, all that’s left is figuring out how to enjoy the fresh milk.




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