Then you’ve got milk! And the baby doesn’t need all of it. You could use the original cow milking system….you know, your hands.
After all, hand-milking is a low-tech operation. You need hands and a bucket. Clean up is as easy as putting the milk bucket in the dishwasher. But milking the cow…. That’s another story!
Me, hand milking my first cow, six years ago.
I’ve heard of people who can milk out a cow in 15 minutes or less. I’m not one of those people. I hand-milked for a year and it was like trying to cut a hay field with scissors. A milking machine can milk out a cow in under 5 minutes. A milking machine is also clean. The milk goes straight from the cow’s teats into an enclosed container. No exposure to cow hairs or debris or any dust that may be in the air.
That said, in the process of giving workshops at the farm and talking with a lot of people who are planning to get their first cow, or have just gotten their first cow, I always give the same advice. Spend some quality time hand-milking your new cow before you jump into equipment.
First, you need to know how to hand-milk and you need to be good at it–which takes time and practice. Your vacuum pump (which runs a milking machine) could fail for some reason (or there could be a power outage). Or some other issue could fail with the system and you might have to wait a few days for replacement parts to come in. You need to know how to take care of your cow by hand.
Second, a milking machine is expensive. Don’t make the investment until you know you are committed to your cow, and you won’t know that until you’ve experienced some time with your cow. Getting a cow is a life-altering event. Don’t take it for granted that you’ll like it. You may decide it’s not for you.
Third, and maybe most important, hand-milking a cow is a beautiful experience. You will get to know your cow’s udder and teats very well, which will allow you to assess her more knowledgeably later when you are using a machine and will be checking her teats only before and after using the machine. But more than that, you will learn about patience and the rhythm of a cow. Hand-milking is a kind of meditative operation. It’s also a very primal act. It’s old-fashioned and storybook-ish. There’s a very romantic quality to it. A milking machine is….mechanical.
Yet much more sanitary–and clean milk is important. If you can hand-milk for a few months and you still love your cow, then for crying out loud, get a milking machine and quit getting hit in the face with that tail already!
My first milking machine was a Surge.
The Surge is the WW II Army tank of milking machines. It’s heavy, indestructible, and built to win wars. I got my Surge five years ago, but it was probably at least 40 years old already. I’m a fan of the Surge–it’s basic and oddly charming. I like old stuff. You can still buy refurbished Surge systems today, and with its low profile, individually controlled lines, and easy conversion between cows and goats, it’s a good choice in certain circumstances. (I’ll write more about the Surge in an upcoming post.) It also has its downsides and limitations. Among those negatives are its capacity, its weight, and its efficiency.
After using the Surge for five years, it was time for me to upgrade to the 21st century. Modern milking equipment is more effective, offers more choices in capacity, is lighter in weight, and benefits from decades of design improvements. That’s good for my cow–and for me!
Note: When you buy equipment, be sure to go to a reputable supply company that’s been in business for a long time. (The company I bought my Surge from went out of business!) When you have questions or need replacement parts or supplies, you want to be able to go back to them. My new complete milking system came from Hamby Dairy Supply.
The equipment arrived on an 18-wheeler that couldn’t get down our narrow country road, so we met the freight driver at a parking lot near the interstate and the equipment was loaded onto a pickup truck to take home.
It’s a complete system, so opening the boxes was like the best Christmas ever that you remember from when you were a kid. I wanted to get everything to milk my cows right, which includes not only the equipment itself but the parts and supplies to wash it and to keep my cows healthy and my milk clean. Even after milking cows for six years, it can be confusing to figure out what you need, so I got a cow bucket milker package that put it all together for me. Not only did that help me up my game, so to speak, in regard to lining up everything I need to milk as cleanly and efficiently as possible, it also saved money due to the package discount. (You also get free shipping if you buy a package deal, which is another huge savings.)
The star of the package is the 7 gallon bucket milker. You can choose a stainless steel bucket or a semi-clear plastic bucket with stainless steel lid. (I chose the plastic bucket. I love that you can see the milk as it’s filling the bucket!) The plastic bucket and the stainless steel bucket are both Grade A and FDA approved. The machine comes with a commercial pulsator, permanently set at the factory. (No messing it up by accident!) Of course, all the inflations and milk and vacuum lines are included.
Not to mention a brand new 1 HP vacuum pump.
The really cool thing about this vacuum pump, aside from the fact that it’s quieter than my old vacuum pump, is that it can run two milking machines at the same time.
As we unloaded the boxes from the truck and opened them, we laid things out on a table on the driveway to look at everything. And ran out of room on the table, because seriously, there was that much stuff.
Did I mention there’s also a complete washing system, including sinks and an auto washer that runs on vacuum power? You can see the sinks in the picture above, and the legs that come with it. (You can also choose a bracket system if you don’t want legs. Faucets are also included.) The auto washer (for automatic washing of claw and hoses) is to be mounted to the wall above the sinks.
But wait, there’s more!
There are three different brushes plus buckets and jugs of dairy detergent and sanitizer and rinses. There’s a CMT test kit for udder infections, a jug of teat dip and a teat cup, 700 teat wipes, and even two one-gallon wash buckets and washcloths.
You might also notice that there are two milkers pictured. (The goat milker is not part of the cow package.) I wanted a separate goat milker, and adding it on with this package meant I was able to get free shipping on it, too, as it shipped with the total order. This is a 5-gallon goat milker.
See how excited my cows are about this equipment in the video!
I’m really excited about the new milking equipment, so I’m going to be doing a series of milking tutorial posts and videos. Whether you’re planning to get your first milking machine, or are ready to upgrade older equipment, I know how mystifying it can be. Not all of us grew up on a dairy farm! I’ve been milking cows and using milking equipment for years, and I’m still learning. Come on this journey of modern milking equipment with me as I break it all down and show you how it works!
P.S. You can find more details and information about everything I talked about and showed in this post/video at Hamby Dairy Supply here.
Want to know what to do with all the milk you’ll be getting with your equipment, or just learn hands-on about cows, goats, and milking? Come to a workshop at the farm to learn to make cheese, soap, and more! Check out the Retreats & Workshops page for all the information, and email [email protected] to sign up!