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After you've decided to buy a milk cow, the next big decision that you'll need to make is whether you should milk by hand or by machine. Here are the pros and cons of both methods to help you make the wisest decision for your farm.

Machine Milking


  • Machine milking is quick, often taking less than 10 minutes to milk out the cow. If your cow is nervous, milking quickly is an advantage.
  • Milking by machine means that your milk will be cleaner than hand-milked milk. Dust and flies can't get into the milk as they can in a pail.
  • Some cows have extremely short teats that would be virtually impossible to milk out by hand. Machine milking means that these cows will be less likely to get mastitis because the milker can fully empty their udders.
  • 'It's so easy to milk by hand. You just wash the teats, hook up the machine, turn it on, and ten minutes later you will be out of the barn. Those who suffer from arthritis may prefer milking by machine.


  • Milking machines and the pumps that run them are very expensive, sometimes costing over $1,000. For farmers on tight budgets this money can be hard to come by.
  • You have to have a designated spot in the barn to set up as your milking parlor. You'll need a place to store your pump and electricity available in the parlor as well.
  • Clean up is much more time consuming with a milking machine. Every time you milk, you must disassemble the shells and inflations, scrub them, wash the milking bucket and allow it all to air dry.
  • Noise is another factor to consider. Milking machines can be quite loud. Some people prefer to milk in peace and quiet, and milking machines are not quiet at all.

Hand Milking


  • Milking by hand is the least expensive way to milk a cow. All you need is a nice, stainless steel bucket and a stool or upended pail on which to sit.
  • Many people just simply prefer the hand-on experience of milking a cow out by hand. They build a relationship with their cows and feel that hand milking contributes to their bond with their animals.
  • Hand milking is a peaceful, rhythmic way to start and end each day.
  • Hand milking can take place anywhere, provided your cow will cooperate with you.


  • The first few times you milk by hand, your arm and hand muscles will be in agony. It takes time to build all of those muscles, but after a week, you should be able to milk without pain.
  • Hand milking allows dust and insects access to your open pail of fresh, clean milk.
  • It takes longer to milk by hand. Some cows may take 15 to 20 minutes to complete a hand milking session.
  • Nervous cows can make hand-milking feel like a wrestling match. Additionally, one wrong move can spoil an entire evening's milking when a manure-caked hoof ends up in the milking pail.

Think over these factors before you get your cow and decide which method will work best on your farm. Most importantly, stay flexible. If one method isn't working well after you've tried it for a few weeks, be willing to give the other method a try.
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