I recently learned how to milk a cow by hand. I have been hand milking Gertie, our family milk cow, for over a month now. I thoroughly enjoy our time together when I hand milk her. The farm kids love to come out with me and
watch help me milk. Derek always comes out too when he is home at milking time.
Milking a cow by hand really isn’t hard to do once you get the hang of it. The hardest part is building up your hand and arm muscles. Be sure to drink lots of milk to keep you from getting sore muscles!
You use the same technique when you’re milking a cow or goat (and perhaps sheep?). I used to hand milk goats with my friend when I was a teenager so I knew what I was getting into beforehand. I guess a teat is a teat!
When I am ready to go out to milk, I gather all of my milking equipment and head out to the barn. We built a milking stanchion for Gertie that is elevated so that I can reach her better. She’s happy to walk up on the stanchion and eat while I happily milk her.
Update: This post was written several years ago (in 2014, it is now 2018). A lot has changed and we no longer have Gertie (so sad!) We do have milk goats now and plan to add a family milk cow back to our homestead in the future.
Update 2: We sold the goats in the fall of 2018 and purchased a Dutch Belted cross milk cow. 🙂
How To Milk a Cow by Hand
Take a rag that is wet with warm water to clean the udder and teat. Sometimes, I add a few drops of liquid castile soap to this water. Be sure that all of the dirt, manure, and debris is cleaned off, you don’t want any of that getting into your milk. This warm rag also helps your milk cow to let down her milk. I don’t think Gertie (or any cow) would appreciate a cold rag very much!
This warm rag also helps your milk cow to let down her milk. I don’t think Gertie (or any cow) would appreciate a cold rag very much!
Grasp the top of the teat with your thumb and index finger trapping the milk in the teat canal. Remember, always use a gentle touch when milking a cow. There’s no need to be aggressive with their udder. They won’t like it and neither will you.
Then, gently but firmly squeeze the rest of your fingers on the teat to squirt it into the bucket. Important: DO NOT pull or tug on the teat, just gently squeeze the milk down. Personally, I only do about 3-4 squirts at first so I can inspect the milk to be sure there are no clumps or anything off about it.
The first couple of squirts also contain the highest bacterial count so it is a good idea to dump those out. Once you check your milk to make sure it is clean, you are ready to move forward with milking your cow.
Continue to milk in this manner until your cow’s udder is out of milk. I use a small 2qt pail to milk into. Once the small pail is about 3/4 full, I pour the milk into my large pail that is lined with a mesh strainer. By handling the milk in this manner, I am able to make sure we have plenty of clean milk.
If my milk cow were to kick the pail over or put her foot in it, I won’t lose all of the milk from that milking. The mesh strainer in the larger pail helps to keep any debris that may have gotten into the small pail out of the milk.
Towards the end of the milking her teat will not refill as quickly. At the very end of milking you can coerce the remaining milk into the teat with a gentle massaging motion.
You can tell the udder is empty because it looks and feels empty. Once your cow’s udder is emptied out completely, you are finished milking and can let her go back to her pasture.
I always make sure that Gertie is completely milked out so that we don’t risk her getting mastitis or her production going down. Milk in livestock is much like in a human, supply and demand.
Once I am done milking my cow, I
slather gently rub on my homemade udder balm. This is a wonder cream for cow’s. I have a friend whose cow had severe edema after calving. Within 24 hours of using my udder balm, her swelling was almost completely gone.
That is all there is to milking a cow by hand! Once you get used to it, you fall into a nice rhythm and just enjoy the bovine company while you milk your cow.
Do you have a milk cow already or are you dreaming of adding one to your homestead one day? I truly believe that a family milk cow is one of the most valuable assets on a family farm. Their milk can provide your family with a wonderful, nutritious food and none of it has to go to waste. Aside from all of the delicious dairy products you can make, your other livestock can greatly benefit from the excess milk.
Here is my youtube video on how to milk a cow by hand:
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Jennifer A says
Thanks for this tutorial, I’ll need it eventually for my goats!
Very good post! Thank you for giving us a peek at your milking routine, I enjoy seeing how others do things. Thank you for sharing at the HomeAcre Hop; I hope you’ll join us again this Thursday.
Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead
Andy Bland says
Wow. You definitely made it look so easy.
Hi…Thanks for sharing a great article!!! Where do you get the bucket strainer..?? That is SOOO neat!
Hi! I ordered the strainer on Amazon. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C2A9L0Q?ie=UTF8&camp=213733&creative=393185&creativeASIN=B00C2A9L0Q&linkCode=shr&tag=thefliflobar-20&linkId=KQVCV44JSNOMGPZ4&qid=1425152035&sr=8-4&keywords=5+gallon+paint+strainer
Thank you for your article. My family got a milk cow right around Christmas last year, she calved a couple of weeks ago. We let the calf have her from evening milking until morning. I generally milk her off in the morning as I pen up the calf and do not receive much milk, I’m not concerned with that at all. In the evening when I milk her I have been getting a good amount for my family, but I noticed when I let the calf out to her he can get her to let down again. Last night I moved him off of her to see how much more she was giving him. It was half a gallon! So I thought I had been milking her off but in fact had not. Any ideas on how I can get her to let hat down without using the calf?
Thank you very much.
Hi! A cow will typically hold up their milk (especially their cream) naturally for their calf. There’s not really a way to get them to let down all of it that I am aware of. Congratulations on your cow! 🙂
Thanks so much Jenna 🙂 I used to work on an organic farm, many, many years ago and we milked the cows by hand there.
We have meat cows but I’ve been wanting a milk cow for years, this tutorial was a great refresher.
Now all that’s left is to convince the husband that a milk cow is the best idea I’ve had all year…
Wish me luck.