How to Milk a Cow

Two Methods:By HandBy Machine

If you find yourself face-to-udder with a cow and are having a hard time getting milk from your bovine, it's because milking a cow is not as easy as it looks, especially if using a milking machine. And if the cow is cranky, it can be downright dangerous. Start with step 1 to learn how to milk a cow properly and safely.[[Category

Method 1
By Hand

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    Make sure the cow has a halter and is tied to a sturdy post or held in a stanchion.
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    Clean the teats with soapy water or iodine. (Warm water may help coax or "bring down" the milk.) Dry the teats, but don't rub or irritate them.
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    Place a bucket underneath the udder. Better yet, hold it between your legs. It takes practice, but this can be done easily and comfortably. This position reduces the chance of the cow kicking over the pail of milk.
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    Sit or squat in a position that will allow you to move away quickly if the cow becomes uncooperative. Sitting cross-legged on the ground, for example, is not safe. (See Warnings below.) An ordinary milk stool can be fabricated with two 2x4's cut and nailed to form a "T" - cut to fit your behind and make sure it is low enough to afford comfortable access to the cow's teats.
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    Apply a lubricant such as Vaseline to your hands to minimize friction.
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    Wrap your warm hands around two of the four teats. Choose diagonal teats (front left and rear right, for example). Or, try the front teats first, then the back pair.
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    Squeeze the base of the teat, after gently clamping each teat between your extended thumb and first finger, so that the teat fills your palm as you squeeze down.
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    Squeeze down to push out the milk, maintaining your grip on the base of the teat so that the milk doesn't flow back up into the udder. Do not jerk or yank the teats. This motion is performed by sequentially squeezing your fingers from the middle to the pinky to force the milk out. Be gentle yet firm. Keep your eyes peeled for mastitis (see Tips).
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    Repeat with your other hand. Most people prefer to alternate (right hand, left hand, right hand, etc.) The downward squeezing motions takes less effort doing it in alternate steps than all at the same time.
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    Continue until the quarter that you're milking looks deflated. Experienced farmers can feel the udder to know exactly when all the milk has come down. Often even looking at the quarter just milked can tell you if it's been emptied enough or not.
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    Move on to milk the other two teats. If you use the diagonal method, switching sides is not necessary.

Method 2
By Machine

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    Secure the cow in position as outlined above.
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    Clean the teats as outlined above.
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    Turn on the milking machine and allow it to build pressure.
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    Hand-milk each teat a few times to let down the milk and check for mastitis (see Tips).
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    Release the pressure so that suction begins.
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    Place each suction device on each teat. This must be done quickly before the machine loses its pressure.
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    Wait until the machine draws all of the milk out of the udder, which will become flaccid as described above.
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    Remove the suction devices from the teats.
    • Many modern milking machines do not require the milker to manually remove the suction cups. Once one quarter has been milked dry, they automatically fall off, one by one.
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    Empty the milk into a pail or similar container.
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    Clean the machine. This prevents milk that dries from building up in the machine.


  • When milking by hand, be sure to remember that there is no pulling and tugging on teats you see on TV. Just squeeze gently.
  • Some cows only stand still if they're given grain or hay to munch on while you go about your business. If your cow is demanding, keep an eye on her food. Be ready to replenish it, or else she'll let you know she wants more by becoming restless and difficult to work with.
  • Always approach the cow slowly. Speak in a low voice and gently pat her side so that she knows where you are. Don't make any sudden movements. The idea is to let her know where you are. If you surprise her, she may panic and kick you or step on you.
  • Tying the cow's tail to her leg will prevent her from swishing you with it. Tail hair does not tie well, and it will come loose after a few minutes.
  • Cracked teats irritate cows - treat with Bag Balm (lanolin.)
  • Some cows lift their back leg and kick over the bucket or knock off the suction devices. Keep the handle positioned so you can grab the bucket should she decide to kick the bucket.
  • If you're milking by hand and haven't experienced doing it on a daily basis, your hands will get tired. A single cow can generate 10 gallons (37.9 L) in one sitting. You can take a break but you run the risk of the cow getting impatient and fidgety (not good.)
  • Some people prefer to use udder cream on their hands as they milk.
  • If you have an ornery cow, she's smarter than you and will delight in taunting and frustrating you. Keep your cool and outsmart her.
  • The stream of milk that squirts out should be solid. If it's split, as if there's an obstruction in the milk duct, the cow might have mastitis, which will need to be treated. If mastitis is suspected, shoot the first few streams into a fine strainer and look for clumps. If there are clumps, seek appropriate treatment. The clumps can look like giant globs of snot.
  • Kids can practice by "milking" a latex glove filled tightly with water and tied in a knot at the opening. Make tiny holes with a needle at the fingers.
  • If the cow is kicking, try putting your weight into the soft spot on the cow immediately in front of their rear legs. As they cannot bring their leg forward, they cannot kick.
    • If this doesn't work, consider hobbling her or putting a Kow-No-Kick device (or a product with a similar name) on her to teach and prevent her from kicking during milking.


  • Just because the cow's getting milked doesn't mean she has good manners. Don't be surprised if she drops a "cow pie" in the middle of her milking. Some cows will urinate, as well - watch her back - if it arches, grab the bucket and move back.
  • Cows kick and they kick hard. They can knock your teeth out and give you a concussion. Be sure you're milking a nice, gentle and well-trained cow, or have experienced supervision.
  • You may also get smacked in the face (sometimes the eye) by her tail. This is not harmful, but it can be annoying. If this happens, be sure to wash your face and eyes--there's a good chance there's manure and bacteria on the tail.
  • Be careful not to trip over the milking machine's tubes or wires.
  • Watch your feet. A cow often weighs over 1,000 lbs. If she steps on your foot, those 1,000 lbs will hurt quite a bit!
  • Cows can kick with a limited sideways motion, as well as directly behind them.

Article Info

Categories: Cattle