Diet,  Food,  Interns

Eleven Years of Hand Milking

We have had dairy cows since 2005 one of which came to us pregnant so we were early to milking once the calf had taken the colostrum. Last year we increase our stock levels of cows buy one to three milking cows, this is in anticipation of milk conversion becoming a commercial operation not just one of self reliance. We have enjoyed an abundance of meat, milk, cream, yogurt and at times even cheese. Now that Fiona my wife no longer works off site in a cheese making factory she is going to restart on farm cheese making both for ourselves, our students and the public. Once the cows have finished raising their own calves and we are taking all their milk for our own use we will have over forty-five liters a day to convert to milk products.

While hand milking is a pleasure with few equals in the farming calendar, hand milking three cows twice a day becomes a chore. We have decided to upgrade the milking parlor as well as the stock level. Single cow milking machines are however very expensive new, and while we are still trying to reduce our impact on the planet and do most things for ourselves second hand seamed the best way to go. We searched around for quite some time and eventually found an out of service machine for just 150€. The vacuum pump was totally inoperable and replacing that cost 260€. Some of  the rubber components on the machine were perished including the cups which actually connect to the cows udder these other components totaled 100€ so 510€ sees us with a fully functioning single cow milking unit on its own trolley.


A new unit would have cost us 1100€ so we have saved 590€, but much more importantly I have added new knowledge to my understanding of how the machine works, and what it will take to repair it if the necessity arrives in the future.

We have had a couple of days to try the machine out now and time the milking speed, that’s taking about 80 second per liter, half our own rate on a cow with good-sized teats. One of our new mother has very small back teats and we have been struggling to get milk from her taking five minuets for one liter, so we are hopeful we can improve milking times considerably with this new machine.


Above two of our cows being milked side by side one by hand and one by machine, hand-milking is one of this years apprentices learning to hand milk.

Costing the machine makes sense at this level of stock but probably would not for one or two cows. Fresh organic milk sells for 1.50€ per liter at the moments 1.50 X 45= 67.50€ per day so less that eight days for the machine to pay its way. The running costs are relatively low but we will be keeping an eye on our electricity bill to see what its yearly costs are.

Just three-month to go now until we are eating our own Cheddar and Stilton style cheese again. Fiona hopes to be selling it by Christmas this year.

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