Farmer Hiram Smith hand milks a cow in 1912.
Milking a cow is a labor intensive process. When a cow enters the parlor, her teats are cleaned and dried. The milk is visually inspected and the milking unit is attached. About 6-8 minutes later, the unit comes off and the teats are dipped with an iodine solution to prevent bacteria entering the teat canal. At each farm, a milker preps every milking cow the same way. Depending on the herd size, parlor size and number of hands to help, milking takes an average of three hours.
That’s a very condensed version of today’s process. But going back as early as 60 years ago, milking a cow was a little different.
Enter the stool, bucket and hand-power.
Back then, the farmer would sit on a stool within reach of the udder and hand-milk the cow into a bucket. Perhaps they were hoping the cow wouldn’t be ornery and kick the bucket, or worse, kick the farmer. The milk would be poured into a milk can and transported to a creamery by way of horse and wagon. Some of our local farmers also remember their parents or grandparents setting the milk cans in a stream to keep them cool before going to the creamery.
Milking took more time back then and herds were smaller, perhaps only 30 cows as compared to today’s average of about 250 cows. In this photo from 1912, Hiram Smith is milking one of his cows. I wonder if he could ever imagine a faster process. Hmm… he was probably thinking instead, “Take the photo so this cow don’t kick me and I can get back to work!”
Computers feeding cows, automated milking, refrigerated bulk tanks, and 50,000-pound tanker trucks – my how times have changed.