One of the first things you will need to consider when you add a dairy cow to your farm is whether you will milk by hand or with a milking machine. It’s a good idea to spend a little time considering the pros and cons of each option so that you can make an informed decision. Your lifestyle, budget, and your cow (or cows) will all have a big influence on which option you choose.
There’s no doubt about it, raw milk is delicious and extremely useful on the self-sufficient homestead, especially if you want to make your own cheese, yogurt, and butter. Whether you decide to milk by hand or with a machine, your family can benefit greatly by having access to raw, farm fresh milk. Here are some key facts about each milking method to help you decide what option is better for you.
Pros and Cons of Milking with a Machine
Using a machine to milk your cow, or cows, makes the most sense for someone who wants to simplify milking and make it fast and easy. Your cow can be taught to go in her stanchion, then you’ll wash her teats, hook up your milking machine, and in less than ten minutes, your cow will be milked. You can even complete some other small chores nearby while the machine does its job.
A milking machine can make your life so much easier if you have a cow with small teats. It can also be a lifesaver if you have a nervous or difficult cow that doesn’t like to be milked. Another benefit is that the milk stays considerably cleaner than it does when you milk by hand into a bucket.
That’s not to say that a milking machine is the perfect solution for any farm; there are definitely some disadvantages. The most notable is that a milking machine can cost you as much as $500 or more. If you’re an average homesteader on a limited budget with only one or two cows to milk, that’s a pretty hefty investment.
Another disadvantage is that, although the milking process itself can be accomplished very quickly with a machine, you’ll need to spend more time cleaning up afterwards. Your machine will need to be disassembled so that all of the parts can be cleaned and sanitized, and then left to air dry. If you are doing your milking twice a day, you will be spending a lot of time on clean up.
Additionally, you should consider the setup of your milking area. Do you have easy access to electricity where you do you milking? Running electricity to your barn could be a huge task. And, you might also want to consider the noise factor. Some milking machines are quite loud. Consider if there will bother you or the other animals in your barn.-
Pros and Cons of Milking by Hand
Milking by hand is the way it’s been done for centuries. For some homesteaders and farmers, doing things the way it’s always been done is part of the experience. To get started with hand milking, all you really need is a cow and a stainless-steel bucket. It couldn’t be much more economical than that!
The process of hand milking can be an enjoyable one, too. Many people love the peaceful pleasure of doing the milking every day. Not only that, over time you establish a solid and loving bond with your cow, which is a sweet reward on its own. And, you really don’t need to have a special setup for hand milking. Anywhere that you can keep clean and comfortable for you and your cow will work just fine.
However, just like anything else, there are some disadvantages to doing all of your milking by hand. For one thing, getting started can be tough on your hands until you build up the right muscles. If you have arthritis in your hands, hand milking could be very uncomfortable for you. When you hand milk, you will need to take extra care to make sure dirt, dust, and insects don’t end up in your milk.
Hand milking definitely takes more time than machine milking, too. Especially if your cow isn’t cooperative. Some cows can be a real pain for milking and from kicking at you to kicking at your milk pail, they’ll try almost anything to get you to leave them alone. Not to mention, one wrong move, and ruined your delicious milk by putting their manure covered foot right in your milk bucket.
Don’t forget to consider the personality of your cow when you decide, too. Some cows will make it clear that they prefer one method over the other. Some cows may not tolerate the machine, while others may hate having you work with their udder. A little experimentation might be required to figure out what makes your cow the most comfortable.
Before you decide which way to go, consider all the factors that come into play. Maybe you need to streamline your chores as much as you can, so you can get to work. Or, perhaps you plan on selling some of your milk, so it needs to be kept as clean and sterile as possible. In these cases, a milking machine might make the most sense.
On the other hand, maybe the experience of milking by hand is enjoyable to you. Perhaps you look forward to that peaceful time of day with your favorite cow. Or, maybe there really isn’t a good place to set up a stanchion with electrical access. And of course, consider your budget! There’s a tremendous difference in startup costs between these two options.
As with anything else around the farm or homestead, there really is no one size fits all answer to this the question of whether you should use a machine or milk by hand. Spend some time thinking it over and make the best decision for you, your cow, and your farm. And remember, you can always change your mind and try the other method if your first choice doesn’t work out after you’ve given it a fair try!