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How Does a Cow Milking Machine Work?

If you’ve ever asked this question, then you’ve come to the right place! The concept of milking machines and how to operate them is relatively simple. Vacuum tubes are attached to the cow’s udders and then milk is sucked from them. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Milking machines are designed with the goal of applying constant vacuum pressure to the tip of the cow’s udders. This mimics the natural way milk is drawn as closely as possible. The vacuum tubes are connected to a container where milk is collected. Machines must also squeeze/pulse the udder periodically so that blood circulation is maintained.

Okay, that’s the basics of machine milking. Seems simple enough, right? Well, not quite, since different machines vary in the way they achieve this. Cheaper models tend to apply too much suction variation, causing discomfort to the cow. An unhappy cow will not produce the proper amount of milk.

Small farmers still trend toward hand-milking, but today’s economy demands efficiency. In other words, commercial dairy farms use complex machines so they produce more milk at a faster pace. This drives prices down, which is great for consumers but detrimental to small dairy farmers.

Fortunately, milking machines of all shapes and sizes are available, giving small dairy farmers the opportunity to compete. The only obstacles faced today are misconceptions.

Step-by-Step Process of a Cow Milking Machine

  1. Milking starts by attaching the cups on the machine to the cow’s udders. Depending on the brand, the cups are made of plastic, stainless-steel, or rubber. This is an area where price and quality meet.
  2. Once the cups are attached, they form a seal that allows milk to be suctioned and transported to the container. A pulsator valve works all liners, which are connected to a vacuum pump. The pulsator chamber is the area between the shell and liner.
  3. The pulsator opens up the liner by pulling a vacuum on the pulsator chamber. This is designed to maintain a rhythm to simulate a calf getting milk from the teat.
  4. The pump does its job and applies a consistent vacuum on the milk tube. This is another area where the quality of the machine has a direct impact on its efficiency. Lower-quality models aren’t consistent, so they don’t allow the animal to get or remain comfortable.
  5. The liners open once pressure builds between the tube and pulsation chamber. This exposes the udder to the vacuum and allows milk to flow.
  6. The pulsator releases, causing the liner to collapse and tighten. This massages the teat and ensures that blood circulation is maintained.
  7. Milk is collected in the container as the machine massages it from the cow. The animal’s level of comfort directly impacts the amount of milk she produces.
  8. Once the cow stops producing milk, the machine automatically shuts off. The device used to detect lack of flow depends on the machine’s model.

Final Thoughts

Once the machine is finished milking the cow, it’s important to give the animal proper care. Apply iodine to the cow’s udders to fight off infection. The milking machine should also be cleaned before and after each use to get rid of dangerous bacteria.

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