Why do cows kick while milking

Milking cows - then and now

Machines that make milking cows easier and speed up the process have only been around for a few decades. Before that, it was milked by hand. But how exactly was that done in the past? And how do the modern methods work?

Milking 50 years ago and earlier

Hand milking has to be learned

When the cows were tied up in the barn, you climbed into them, sat with the stool next to a cow and put a bucket under the udder. The teats were cleaned, rubbed with milking fat and massaged a little. Milking itself required a lot of routine and strength so that the milk flowed quickly enough into the udder and the cow was not in pain. It was a very arduous process and if you were practiced it took about six minutes per cow. One worker could only milk six animals per hour. The milk was collected in milk cans and then poured through a sieve cloth. Then the milk cans stood in cold water overnight to cool them. The next morning they were picked up by the milk truck and driven to the dairy.

Milking in wind and weather in the pasture

In many farms, the cows stayed on the pasture during the summer months. That meant going out twice a day and milking her there, whatever the weather. Often it was the women who were responsible for milking with the support of the children. They took buckets and milk cans on a small milk cart or bicycle. The cows were often cleaner in the pasture than in the barn and the teats were cleaned more quickly. But they grazed far away from each other, so that the women had to walk many meters to milk several animals. Most of the time the cows stood still and let the milking go on because the milk squeezed in the udder. They were also praised and petted for their patience. But young cows could also be restless and step after the milker. Then a second person was needed to hold the cow. You also had to watch out for the tail because it could hit the milker painfully in the face. There was hardly any milk yield during a thunderstorm because the cows did not stand still for long and ran across the pasture in panic.

Milking today - supported by automatisms and robotics

The milking parlor and the milking robot

Of course, technological progress did not stop at the cowshed. Nowadays there are different types of milking parlors that automate milking to different degrees. For most of them, it is not yet possible to completely do without human labor, but significantly fewer workers are required. The milkers stand in a pit that is lower than the cows' standing so that they can attach the milking cluster to the udder without having to bend down. Four teat cups - one for each teat - imitate the movements a suckling calf would make. The milk is drawn out of the teat by means of negative pressure. It flows through hoses directly into a milk tank.

The different milking parlors

With the side-by-side or parallel milking parlor, the cows stand at right angles to the milking pit and the milker reaches through his hind legs. The herringbone milking parlor is constructed in a similar way, except that the cows are standing at a slight angle to the milking pit so that the animals can enter and leave the milking parlor more quickly. Both variants have the disadvantage that the cows have to wait until everyone has been milked out before they can go out again. In the tandem milking parlor, the cows have their own gates. They stand one behind the other parallel to the pit and all look in the same direction. This allows them to observe what is happening and, if necessary, behave more calmly. Larger farms often work with a rotary milking parlor. The cows step onto a rotating platform and get the milking cluster attached there. After three quarters of a turn, the cow is ready and can leave the platform in a separate area so that her space is free for the next cow.

Robotics Benefits for Easier Work and Improved Animal Health

There are milking robots that do all work without human intervention. These are equipped with optical sensors, ultrasound and lasers and can attach the milking cluster to the cow independently. The cleaning of the teats before and after milking and the stimulation of the milk flow are also automatic. The robots also make their contribution to animal welfare: They analyze how much milk is left in the udder so that there is no damage to health from milk residue. The milking cluster is disinfected after each cow in order to contain pathogens. Some models can even check the electrical conductivity of the teat and thus estimate the cow's risk of disease.