On most dairy farms in the UK, the cows are milked twice a day in a milking parlour. Cows are usually milked early in the morning, on our farm we start milking at 6am. They are then milked again in the late afternoon, we milk again at 5.15pm. This means that dairy farmers have a long working day, usually 6am to 7pm.
The cows have a really good ‘body clock’ so when milking time comes around they start to queue up ready to come in. There are certain cows who are always at the front. At our farm we always expect to see Dellia and Lacey leading the herd in to be milked. Below is a picture of Dellia being milked, as usual she was the first into the parlour.
On our farm, the cows come in to be milked 16 at a time. The parlour identifies them, based on a transponder they wear on a neck collar. The cows are then fed, according to their yield (how much milk they’re giving) and stage of lactation (how many days they’ve been milking). Here’s an overhead picture of Dellia eating her ‘cake’, that’s farmer speak for the feed we give the girls in the milking parlour.
Once the cows have been fed, the milking routine starts.
Dip the cow’s teats with a disinfectant solution to clean them before milking.
Wipe teats using paper towel to remove the disinfectant dip and clean and dry the teat.
Attach the milking unit to each teat and leave the cow to be milked.
When the cow has finished milking, the milking unit is automatically removed.
Dip the cow’s teats with a thicker disinfectant solution to protect from bacteria after milking.
Let the cows leave the milking parlour.
Nowadays, some farms have robotic milkers, where the cows can choose when they want to be milked and may choose to be milked more frequently. Robotic milkers work 24 hours a day and don’t have set milking times. The cows can go to be milked at any time – even through the middle of the night, without the farmer needing to be there to perform the task of milking.
For more than half of the year, cows on our farm are outside at grass between milkings. This is the time of year we like best, as it is great to see the cows enjoying their days in the sunshine.
When autumn comes and the weather gets worse it is necessary for the cows to come and live inside. This is because the grass stops growing so there is not enough food for them outside. In addition, wet weather makes the ground very muddy which cows really don’t like. When cows come to live inside they are housed in two groups. Our younger cows live in the cubicle shed. This building has purpose built beds for the cows to lie in – each bed even has its own cow mattress in to keep the girls comfortable. The bigger and older ladies live in the straw yard. This is a big shed which consists of one huge straw bedded yard for the cows to lie in.