We are a dairy farm. That means we milk our cows 2-3 times a day. This milk is sold to a processor, processed in to various of dairy products and then purchased and consumed by you. So how exactly do we get the milk out of our cows?
The first step is we bring the cows out of their freestall barn and put them in the holding pen. The holding pen is an area where they wait to enter the parlor to be milked. Once the enter the parlor they begin the milking process. We have a fairly common procedure. It is done to every cow who enters our parlor. In our parlor we can milk 12 cows at a time. Each group spends about 15 minutes in the parlor, from start to finish.
Our cows are housed on sand free stalls. This makes a very comfortable bed for them. It also helps keep them healthy by greatly lowering their chance of getting mastitis. Sand, unlike straw or sawdust, is an inorganic material. This means it will not grow bacteria on it unless it is contaminated by organic material, poop and milk. This is why we clean the stalls with a rake each milking to remove the organic material left by the cows. However, sand sticks to teats. So the first step we do in milking a cow it to brush the sand off of her teats.
Now that the sand has been removed we apply a pre-dip. This is a peroxide based dip that will sanitize the teat for milking. Teats are sanitized for two reasons. 1) We don’t want any dirt and germs from the outside get to the inside of the udder. This will make her more likely to contract mastitis. 2) You want your milk coming from a clean source.
Once pre-dip is applied the teats appear foamy from the peroxide in the dip.
After the dip is applied, we massage the teat to make sure the entire teat is covered in dip. This also helps stimulate milk letdown. Then we take 2-3 squirts, or strips, of milk out of each teat to check for abnormalities.
Now that she has been dipped and stimulated we need to clean the dip off.
We use paper towels to wipe the teats clean.
Now that she is clean, we are ready to attach the milking unit.
It takes that average cow 5-7 minutes to milk out completely. So what does it look like when a cow is being milked with a milker?
Once she is milked out, the milking unit is removed and she is dipped with a post dip to help protect against germs. After milking the teat canal remains open while the muscle at the end of the teat retracts.The peroxide based post dip helps protect the cow from germs until it is closed.
Once all of the cows in the parlor have completed this process, they are milked at the same time, they exit the parlor and return to the barn.
The milk is then held in our bulk tank. The milk is picked up by the milk truck every morning and taken to a local processor. From there it ends up on grocery shelves and in your fridge!