In the Milking Parlor

The milking parlor is a daily destination for cows that are ready to be milked at the farm.

The milking parlor has evolved with the times, and today’s facilities are designed to assure a smooth and quick experience for cows. It takes about five to seven minutes to milk a cow on most farms, thanks to technological advances such as automatic milking machines. It’s certainly a far cry from the days when farmers sat on a stool and milked each cow by hand!

Modern milking parlors have the capacity to milk dozens of cows at once. 

Not all milking parlors look the same. Technological advances have produced “carousel” milking parlors (above) and even robotics. Cows climb aboard the slow-moving platform to be milked and exit once they are finished (although it’s not uncommon for some to stay on for an extra spin after they are done being milked!) 

Milking parlors at dairy farms feature milking units, which are lined with soft rubber and are attached to each of the four teats on a cow’s udder. The milking units produce a pulsating, vacuum-like sensation that allows the cow to give her milk. 

Employees in the milking parlor are positioned in a “pit,” which allows them to be at eye level with a cow’s udder. This assures efficiency and allows employees to have an up-close look at each cow’s udder so they can spot any concerns that may require attention. 

Before and after a cow is milked, farm employees sanitize each of the cow’s teats with disinfectant, as this employee does with the yellow “teat dip” cup. This helps assure that a safe supply of milk makes its way from the farm to the processing plant.

Following the dip, workers wipe the cow’s teats with a clean towel and will express milk from each teat to assure the cow is ready to be milked.

Once a milking unit is placed on a cow’s udder, the milk is on its way!

Fresh milk moves from a tube attached to the milking unit and into stainless steel pipes that instantly chill the milk to 45 degrees or less. The milk is collected in these tanks that keep it chilled until it is picked up and taken to the processing plant. 

Before milk leaves the farm, samples are taken to assure it is free of any residue from antibiotics or other medications used to keep the cows healthy. If a residue is detected, the milk never leaves the farm.

Tanker trucks like this one are at dairy farms every day, sometimes more than once, to pick up fresh milk and take it to the processing plant where it is pasteurized and used to make a variety of dairy products. The milk truck is like a large thermos and the milk stays chilled all the way to the plant. Milk is typically on a store’s shelves two to three days after leaving the farm.