Milking the Cow Correctly
Milking the Cow Correctly

Milking the Cow Correctly

from ‘How to Feed the Dairy Cow’

by Hugh G. Van Pelt 1919
loaned by SFJ reader Wendy Bedortha of Paulina, OR

There is not much to be gained by feeding a cow unless you are determined to get all the milk and butterfat the feed makes. You cannot get all the milk and butterfat the feed makes unless you milk the cow right. A large percentage of cows are not milked right, so a large loss of milk and a large loss of butterfat result. It is as important that cows be well milked as it is that they be well fed.

Milking should be systematically done. This is generally known and acknowledged to the extent of regularity but few who milk cows systematize the operation further. Milkers are usually boastful of the number of cows they can milk in an hour. Sometimes they lay claim to the ability of milking a cow dry and that they accomplish the purpose with dry hands. Very seldom does one lay claim to the art of co-operating with the feeder in attempt to encourage persistency of milk flow or enriching it. However, the milker can do more toward increasing the test of a cow, almost, if not quite, as much by the way of stimulation a large, persistent yield of milk as can the feeder.

Therefore, a treatise on feeding the dairy cow, to be complete must urge not only the feeder to stimulate the cow to make milk and butterfat but also it must urge the milker and tell him how to secure the milk and butterfat after it is made.

The best way to dry a cow is to leave in the udder comparatively large quantities of milk. The best way to encourage large and persistent milking is to systematically take it from the udder every drop of milk at regular intervals. If leaving in the udder large quantities of milk turns a cow dry, leaving in the udder small quantities of milk detracts from persistency.

Whether the cow is to be milked by hand or with a machine, she should be prepared for milking. The first step in this direction is to cleanse the udder and flanks. This is advisable because milk is a food for human beings and there is no more justification for the man who disregards cleanliness in milking a cow than there is for the woman who disregards cleanliness in frying potatoes; not as much, because the cooking of potatoes kills the germs that may happen to accompany the dirt to the skillet, but milking a cow does not kill the germs that happen to accompany the dirt to the milk pail.

But this phase of the question pertains more to sanitation than to largeness of production and, regardless of sanitation, the cow should be prepared for milking before the actual process of milking begins.

It is not infrequent to hear milkers abuse, with words and otherwise, cows because they will not give down their milk, when by all rules of common sense the milker and not the cow is deserving of the abuse. A cow is not merely a reservoir containing a given volume of milk that she can give down, or hold up, as she chooses. The process of giving milk is an intricate one, governed very largely by the nervous system of the animal which may be controlled through the cow by the milker. A brief review of the manner in which milk is made reveals this fact. A cow giving milk is a continuous worker. Unlike other animals, she works 24 hours a day, eating, digesting, assimilating food and depositing the digested nutrients in the udder and making milk and butterfat therefrom. Her udder, from outward appearances, is composed of four quarters and four teats. These quarters, however, are each peculiarly and wonderfully composed. In this respect cows differ very largely and the extent to which they differ they may be classified as good cows or poor cows, other things being equal.

Just above the base of each teat in the udder, little reservoirs called milk cisterns are to be found. These vary in capacity, but they are seldom large enough to hold more than about one-half pint. Above these milk cisterns are the milk-making glands which appear to the naked eye more like a large sponge than anything else with which they can be compared. Only with a microscope can definite knowledge regarding them be secured. Such a study shows the glands to consist of small cavities varying in size connected with little canals, each canal lading upward and terminating in tiny cavities which are called alveoli. Surrounding and associated with each microscopic alveolus is a mass of arteries, veins, lymph vessels and nerves. In the udder are innumerable active centers of this kind, and each is a little factory unto itself. In other words, it is in the alveoli that the elaboration or manufacture of milk takes place. The alveoli are separated from each other by tissues which support and give form to the udder but otherwise have nothing to do with milk-making. An overabundance of this tissue in comparison to the size and numerousness of the alveoli causes an udder to be large but fatty or beefy in texture, and therefore inefficient. The udder made up largely of alveoli with just enough of the connective tissue to give form and support to it represents an ideal structure, and it is such an udder that may increase to large proportions between milkings and, as the process of milking takes place, decrease in size or collapse and when milking is finished hang like a dishrag.

Between milking periods the cow eats and digests food. The blood pumped out from the heart passes along the digestive system, picks up or absorbs the digested nutrients, and carries them to the alveoli. Here they are deposited for elaboration and the udder is expanded by their presence. Contrary to the belief of many, the udder never contains any great amount of milk. This has been proven conclusively. A cow milking heavily may be killed just before time to milk and the udder dissected and it will be found that only a small quantity of milk is present in the cisterns just above the teats and a small drop of milk will be found here and there among the alveoli and the tissue of the udder.

This brief explanation illustrates the fact that the true manufacture of food nutrients into milk takes place during the few minutes occupied by the actual process of milking. This is the reason why the art of milking is of so much importance. It is the reason why the manner in which the cow gives down her milk is so largely under the control of the milker. It is the reason why the cow should be prepared for milking before the actual labor of milking begins. It is the reason why the milker should have the confidence of the cow that he may encourage her to have full and favorable control over her nervous system, which in reality governs the elaboration or manufacture of milk. It is the reason why the excited cow fails to give down her milk freely and completely. That method of approaching the cow at milking time which quiets her nervous system frees her from fear and gives her confidence that she is not to be harmed, causes the milk manufacturing centers to work normally and efficiently. Likewise, that which generates fear and lack of confidence in the cow affects the entire nervous system, including the small nerves affecting the alveoli, with the result that milk is made hesitatingly and inefficiently and a small flow of milk, slowly yielded, is received.

It is, therefore, apparent that to hastily sit down and grab a pair of the cow’s teats, or without giving warning attach the milk cups of a machine, acts unfavorably upon a prompt and free release of the volume of milk.

The advisable method is that of approaching the cow in a friendly, quiet manner, and first carefully washing the udder, teats and flank with a cloth or sponge moistened with water that is warm in cold weather or cool in warm weather. From a sanitary standpoint the adding of a small amount of non-odorous, efficient disinfectant is advisable because it kills germ life that may be present to affect the quality of milk adversely, and such frequent applications of a mild disinfecting solution keep the teats free from sores and cracks. The application of moisture proves comfortable and reassuring to the cow, and this, being followed promptly with a soft, dry towel, causes her to begin converting nutrients into milk, which she is prepared to give freely to her master. Furthermore, when this method is followed, the necessity for wetting the hands at intervals – a most abominable practice – is eliminated, for the cow’s teats will be in the most pliable and acceptable condition for milking.

But a moment is required for the cleansing and drying process which, if carefully applied, is a large saving of time and temper.

Which teat to milk first is largely a matter of convenience to the milker, but milking one hind teat and the opposite front teat and then the other pair tends to keep the quarters of the udder more even and uniform in size and shape than through the usual custom of first milking the front pair of teats and then the hind pair is followed.

The actual process of milking needs little discussion, for if the milker keeps his finger nails closely trimmed, grasps the teats with a full hand, close up to the udder, and applies just enough pressure tending downward without unnecessary pulling or stretching the teats, milk will come freely and rapidly.

Milking should begin slowly, the rapidity being increased as the freedom with which the milk comes increases. Once begun, the milking should be done quickly but without hurrying.

Finally, when the stream becomes small and the milk comes sparingly from one pair of teats, the other pair should be milked with the same system and promptness. By that time, more milk will have entered the first pair of teats and they should be milked out and such a second milking given to the other teats, always using the full hand and never tolerating stripping with the thumb and finger. Cows having teats so short that the stripping method seems absolutely necessary should be disposed of or always milked with machines. Life is too short to sit and strip milk with the thumb and finger especially, because the process spoils a cow causing her to become a slow, tedious milker, requiring so much time for milking what she fails to be profitable.

When all possible milk has been obtained by this quick, easy and simple method, the udder should be rather vigorously yet carefully manipulated to stimulate the milk-making glands to further and more complete activity; for it is the last milk that is richest and most valuable; and, furthermore, manipulation is the best method of increasing size, activity and efficiency of the glands, which respond in proportion to the completeness of their development.

The cow milked in the manner thus far described, although only partially milked, is better milked than is the general custom. However, it is at this point that the extra minute or two already saved by the expert, systematic milker is put in good use. More milk, extra rich in quality, can yet be secured. The question of whether this milk is secured and how, determines to a large degree the richness of the entire volume, the persistency of the cow and the completeness with which her milk-yielding powers are developed.

The athlete knows that exercise, followed by rubbing, massaging and manipulating the muscles, makes them stronger, more active and more efficient. The expert milker finds this to be true also regarding the milk-making glands. To accomplish the purpose one athlete follows one method while others accomplish the same purpose by using methods entirely different in detail but the same in general principle. But each recognizes some one method and follows it systematically. Likewise, various methods may be employed in manipulating the cow’s udder, but each milker should adopt an efficient method and follow it systematically. “Practice make perfect.” By following the same plan every time each cow is milked, the operator soon becomes so expert that no more time is required for securing all of the milk than is required to obtain only the first part of it. In fact, because the cow gives her milk more promptly and more freely and because the detrimental practice of stripping is eliminated, systematizing the work really saves time. It does more than this. That which is considered an irksome job becomes an interesting occupation. When ambition enters with the milk pail, drudgery leaves with the litter carrier.

To illustrate with one of scores of instances the writer has experienced: A young man, particularly willing to work and almost over-ambitious to excel his associates by securing comparatively large and rich yields of milk from a string of cows he was milking that he might win promotion and milk a string of cows on official test, was at the point of discouragement because, regardless of how hard he worked, the milk sheet showed his cows decreased more rapidly in milk flow than those milked by others and the Babcock tester gave them a lower test.

One morning, as he was sitting down to milk a heifer, the superintendent handed him a pint bottle and asked that he fill it, taking equal portions from each quarter. This done, the bottle was labeled and set aside.

The second pint bottle was presented to him with a like request just as he had presumably finished milking the heifer and was leaving with his pail of milk. He protested that no more milk could be secured, but the superintendent insisted. The attempt was successfully made and later the two samples thus secured were tested with the assistance of the milker, who was amazed to find that the first sample tested only 2.3 per cent while the second one tested 15 per cent.

Even as a word to the wise sufficient, so this demonstration proved to be the necessary lesson to the willing worker, ambitious to become an expert milker. From that day on he was the best milker in the barn. His cows always tested highest and milked most persistently because he had learned how to legitimately add to each milking of every cow a pint of milk, creamy in richness and the manner in which he secured it exercised, stimulated and developed the milk-making glands.

Methods Are Numerous

The method of manipulation is important only to the extent that systematized effort saves time and, being uniform in application, greater response may be expected. It has long been known in European countries that efficient milking depends upon udder manipulation. Different methods are employed in different parts of the country. In Bohemia, where farms and herds are small, it is desirable and necessary to obtain all that is possible from an individual. Cows and goats are strenuously milked.

The method employed is to set the pail aside after the first milking is finished and then gently yet vigorously slap the udder with the palms of the hands several times and then proceed with a second milking. From this process have been derived the terms “cow slappers” and “goat slappers,” which terms are frequently used in referring to expert milkers.

Dr. Hegelund of Norway was the first to outline a definite, systematic method of udder manipulation. So great were the results secured by him that his method, original and with deviations, is very largely used all over Europe and by those in this country who have realized that milking may be so accomplished as to become an art.

Milking the Cow Correctly

Professors Woll and Carlyle of the Wisconsin Experiment Station many years ago carried on extensive experiments to determine the merits of udder manipulation as recommended by Dr. Hegelund. After testing the plan on a few cows in the college herd they practiced on 12 different herds containing a total of 142 cows, found on practical dairy farms. The preceding table shows the average yield of milk and fat secured by milking as generally practiced, that produced by after milking, the average gain and the range in gain of butterfat for the individual cows of the herds.

It will be noted that there was a total average daily gain of 1.08 pounds of milk, .10 pound of butterfat, and that these gains amounted to an increase in production of 5.3 per cent in milk and 12.6 per cent in butterfat. The most striking knowledge is that portrayed by the column which shows the great difference in gain of individual cows in every herd experimented with. The fact that the variation ranges from 1.5 per cent to 72.1 per cent shows plainly that every milker should be equipped with knowledge of udder manipulation that such knowledge may be employed with cows where it is most necessary at least. The results of the experiment show conclusively that it is profitable to methodically manipulate the udders of all cows at every milking, and very apparently it is absolutely essential in order to secure more than 28 per cent of the production certain cows are capable of yielding. So fully is this recognized in Denmark – which country is noted because of the large average production secured from her cows – that one-week short courses are held for the specific purpose of teaching how cows should be milked. Women, boys and girls attend these short courses by the thousands because they are the ones who do most of the milking in Denmark. The result is that, instead of being considered a necessary task and irksome duty, milking there is considered a most honorable mission, and those who milk cows pride themselves in doing so efficiently, scientifically, even artistically.

Milking the Cow Correctly
Figure A

There can be no doubt that this education in milking cows, which is so generally given in Denmark, accounts largely for the extra production. Although the scholar secures the diploma after attending school only one week, Denmark has, by appreciating the discovery of Dr. Hegelund, profited to the extent of millions of dollars annually and attained the distinction of being by far the greatest dairy country, size considered, in the world.

Milking the Cow Correctly
Figure B

An excellent method of udder manipulation, which may be very profitably employed by those who milk cows, and especially by those desiring to secure record production, is shown by the accompanying illustrations. When the first milking is finished, the front quarters are firmly pressed together and then like pressure is applied to the hind quarters, according to figure A. The front and rear quarters on one side are then grasped with the hands and pressure applied as shown in Figure B. The process is duplicated with the quarters on the other side. Then, reaching as high as possible, the milker grasps the two rear quarters and presses as illustrated by Figure C. The same manipulations are then accorded the front quarters. These operations require the expenditure of but a few minutes as one becomes experienced in practicing them. The attempt should be to gently apply just enough pressure to every part of each quarter to massage thoroughly the entire udder. This stimulates the glands to further action and causes the secretion of additional milk.

Milking the Cow Correctly
Figure C

With the use of the full hand the cow is again milked. Because the manipulations have encouraged the extra milk secreted to fill the milk cisterns, milking is quickly done. If no further effort is made results such as the Hegelund method insure will be secured, but additional and even richer milk is yet available.

Milking the Cow Correctly
Figure D

As illustrated by Figure D, the milker uses both hands in securing the few final strips from each teat. With one hand the udder, up close to the body, is grasped and pressed while with the other hand the milk encouraged by this movement is drawn. The same movements are practiced on each of the quarters.

Udder Manipulation Is Practical

The over-practical dairyman many insist that too much time, effort and theory are required for such a process of milking. The answer to this claim is that whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well; that, when a milker becomes accustomed to the method, little or no more time is required to milk a cow than is required by haphazard milking and that, even though a minute or more required, the extra amount of milk, and the richness of it, together with the persistency encouraged in the cow and the added development she attains, insure profit greater in most instances than the total profit secured from ordinary milking. That this is true has been conclusively proved by all experiments and experience.

On that day, when Germany crossed the Belgian border, the people of America entered upon a period different from any other they had ever experienced; a period when more than ever before they needed to look to that which has been wasted in the past for the profits of the future. The milk sacrificed by common milking is extravagant waste and in a large portion of instances measures the difference between profit and loss. With land, labor, feed and cows high in price there can be no question as to the advisability of milking good cows, provided they are milked efficiently; otherwise, there is much doubt.

Most Objections Are False Ones

A further objection to the manipulation method of milking is that it is liable to cause cows to withhold their milk at the first milking, awaiting the second milking. On the contrary, however, experiments show that the opposite is true. As the cow advances in lactation and becomes accustomed to this thorough milking, less milk is secured following the manipulations.

There may also be a belief that because the cow is so thoroughly milked at one milking she will give less at the next. In this instance, also, the opposite is true. The more the udder is massaged, provided it is gently done, the more the glands are stimulated and because of the manipulation and the extra thorough milking occasioned thereby, the amount of milk secured at each succeeding milking will be greater than though the cow had been less thoroughly milked.

Beneficial Effects Transmitted

Whether the beneficial effects upon the cow will be inherited by her offspring is a question of whether acquired characteristics are transmitted to the offspring. If so – and there is favorable reason for believing in the affirmative – the daughters of efficiently milked cows will be inherently greater producers and the sons of such cows will transmit the large producing characteristics to their daughters.

Udder Troubles Prevented

As a rule, the majority of udder troubles are due to inefficient milking. Blind quarters, uneven and unbalanced udders, as well as those diminutive in size, are caused by careless, haphazard milking. Very seldom indeed do udder troubles occur when cows are thoroughly milked and the udders massaged twice or oftener daily. As a matter of fact, it is well known that the best treatment that can be afforded an udder troubled with garget or other infection is thorough massaging and frequent and thorough milking. If for no other reason a methodical system of milking should be employed except for developing udders and keeping them shapely in form and in healthy, working condition, this reason would suffice to make it advisable.

Useful Supplement to Machines

Gradually hand milking is giving way to machine milking, and where machines are used the udder manipulations are even more necessary. In most instances it will be found more advantageous in securing all the milk a cow yields, in encouraging her persistency and in avoiding udder troubles to massage the udder and permit the milking machine to do the stripping rather than to detach the machine and strip the udder by hand.