How does an automatic cow milking system work?

Written by ann johnson
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How does an automatic cow milking system work?


There are several advantages to using an automatic milking system, as opposed to milking cows by hand. The first is efficiency. With an automatic milking system you can milk more cows, in less time, with less labour. Large dairies often use milking parlours, huge buildings designed specifically for milking a significant number of cows. Pasture cows, who are grazing in the fields, usually walk to the milking parlour. The second advantage is cleanliness.

Hoses and Cups

A milking machine is basically a number of hoses that lead from the cow to a pipeline or storage container for the milk. The cow's teats are fitted into a metal shaped cup with a rubber liner. The cup is attached to a hose and a pulsator creates a pressure in the outer chamber to draw the milk from the cow. During this milking process the pulsator regulates the amount of pressure to simulate the nursing of a calf.


The milking machine principle depends on a partial vacuum which is created when air is removed from the hose and cup. This vacuum is created by the pulsator which admits air around the rubber liner, forcing it to create a suction on the teat. After the milking is completed, the pulsator shifts into a rest or massage phase, applying less pressure. This gentle massage helps to keep the cow's teats healthy.

Auto Removal

Many milk machines have automatic take-off or detacher devices. This releases the cow's teats when the milking is complete. Modern machines are often connected to a computer system that regulates the milking machine and stores data about the cow's production.

Daily Milking

To sustain the lactation period of a cow, she must be consistently milked. The lactation period is around 300 days, and during this time a cow should be milked at least twice daily. There should be an extended time frame between the daily milkings. Milking machines can help to increase the milking to three times a day, which is actually less stressful for the cow and can increase the yield. With the more frequent milking, the cow stores less milk between milkings.


Systems might cost as much at 200,000 dollars per unit. Machine milking also means reduced contact between the cow and the farmer, which can result in illnesses being overlooked.

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