Way back in the old days, milking was a time-consuming chore for dairy farmers, who would have to collect bucket upon bucket of milk from their cows by hand. In 1916, a device that could draw milk away from the cow with minimal human intervention while minimizing the chance of infection to the cow was introduced to the market. The modern milking machine was born.
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Today, milking machines are a standard fixture in many dairy farms today, ranging from smaller portable milking machines utilized by smallholdings to larger, fully automated carousel-like devices that could draw milk from an entire dairy herd. They have enabled farmers to save a considerable amount of time in milking large herds.
Regardless of their size, milking machines operate on identical principles: they use vacuum power to draw milk from the cow’s udders.
Great care is made with every machine to reduce the likelihood of injury and to reduce the risk of mastisis (udder infection) in the cows. Each of the cow’s four teats are hooked up to suction devices, which consist of a teat cup to prevent injury, vacuum tubes, a collection cup, and tube to draw the milk. These are operated by a vacuum source that is regulated by a pulsator in cycles.
Most machines today also have an automated detacher to quickly remove the teat cups. Larger rotary milking parlors are run by computers, though they would still need to be set up manually. Today, a few systems are relying on increasing automation, with a few allowing cows to decide for themselves when they would like to be milked.
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