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Category: History and Breeds

The manner of milking exerts a more powerful and lasting influence on
the productiveness of the cow than most farmers are aware. That a slow
and careless milker soon dries up the best of cows, every practical
farmer and dairyman knows; but a careful examination of the beautiful
structure of the udder will serve further to explain the proper mode of
milking, in order to obtain and keep up the largest yield.

The udder of a cow consists of four glands, disconnected from each
other, but all contained within one bag or cellular membrane; and these
glands are uniform in structure. Each gland consists of three parts: the
glandular, or secreting part, tubular or conducting part, and the
teats, or receptacle, or receiving part. The glandular forms by far
the largest portion of the udder. It appears to the naked eye composed
of a mass of yellowish grains; but under the microscope these grains are
found to consist entirely of minute blood-vessels forming a compact
plexus, or fold. These vessels secrete the milk from the blood. The milk
is abstracted from the blood in the glandular part; the tubes receive
and deposit it in the reservoir, or receptacle; and the sphincter at the
end of the teat retains it there until it is wanted for use.

This must not be understood, however, as asserting that all the milk
drawn from the udder at one milking is contained in the receptacle. The
milk, as it is secreted, is conveyed to the receptacle, and when that is
full, the larger tubes begin to be filled, and next the smaller ones,
until the whole become gorged. When this takes place, the secretion of
the milk ceases, and absorption of the thinner or more watery part
commences. Now, as this absorption takes place more readily in the
smaller or more distant tubes, it is invariably found that the milk from
these, which comes last into the receptacle, is much thicker and richer
than what was first drawn off. This milk has been significantly styled
afterings, or strippings; and should this gorged state of the tubes be
permitted to continue beyond a certain time, serious mischief will
sometimes occur; the milk becomes too thick to flow through the tubes,
and soon produces, first irritation, then inflammation, and lastly
suppuration, and the function of the gland is materially impaired or
altogether destroyed. Hence the great importance of emptying these
smaller tubes regularly and thoroughly, not merely to prevent the
occurrence of disease, but actually to increase the quantity of milk;
for, so long as the smaller tubes are kept free, milk is constantly
forming; but whenever, as has already been mentioned, they become
gorged, the secretion of milk ceases until they are emptied. The cow
herself has no power over the sphincter at the end of her teat, so as to
open it, and relieve the overcharged udder; neither has she any power of
retaining the milk collected in the reservoirs when the spasm of the
sphincter is overcome.

Thus is seen the necessity of drawing away the last drop of milk at
every milking; and the better milker the cow, the more necessary this
is. What has been said demonstrates, also, the impropriety of holding
the milk in cows until the udder is distended much beyond its ordinary
size, for the sake of showing its capacity for holding milk--a device to
which many dealers in cows resort.

Thus much of the internal structure of the udder. Its external form
requires attention, because it indicates different properties. Its form
should be spheroidal, large, giving an idea of capaciousness; the bag
should have a soft, fine skin, and the hind part upward toward the tail
be loose and elastic. There should be fine, long hairs scattered
plentifully over the surface, to keep it warm. The teats should not seem
to be contracted, or funnel-shaped, at the inset with the bag. In the
former state, teats are very apt to become corded, or spindled; and in
the latter, too much milk will constantly be pressing on the lower
tubes, or receptacle. They should drop naturally from the lower parts of
the bag, being neither too short, small, or dumpy, or long, flabby, and
thick, but, perhaps, about three inches in length, and so thick as just
to fill the hand. They should hang as if all the quarters of the udder
were equal in size, the front quarters projecting a little forward, and
the hind ones a little more dependent. Each quarter should contain about
equal quantities of milk; though, in the belief of some, the hind
quarters contain rather the most.

Largely developed milk-veins--as the subcutaneous veins along the under
part of the abdomen are commonly called--are regarded as a source of
milk. This is a popular error, for the milk-vein has no connection with
the udder; yet, although the office of these is to convey the blood from
the fore part of the chest and sides to the inguinal vein, yet a large
milk-vein certainly indicates a strongly developed vascular system--one
favorable to secretions generally, and to that of the milk among the

Milking is performed in two ways, stripping and handling. Stripping
consists in seizing the teat firmly near the root between the face of
the thumb and the side of the fore-finger, the length of the teat
passing through the other fingers, and in milking the hand passes down
the entire length of the teat, causing the milk to flow out of its point
in a forcible stream. The action is renewed by again quickly elevating
the hand to the root of the teat. Both hands are employed at the
operation, each having hold of a different teat, and being moved
alternately. The two nearest teats are commonly first milked, and then
the two farthest. Handling is done by grasping the teat at its root
with the fore-finger like a hoop, assisted by the thumb, which lies
horizontally over the fore-finger, the rest being also seized by the
other fingers. Milk is drawn by pressing upon the entire length of the
teat in alternate jerks with the entire palm of the hand. Both hands
being thus employed, are made to press alternately, but so quickly
following each other that the alternate streams of milk sound to the ear
like one forcible, continued stream. This continued stream is also
produced by stripping. Stripping, then, is performed by pressing and
passing certain fingers along the teat; handling, by the whole hand
doubled, or fist, pressing the teat steadily at one place. Hence the
origin of both names.

Of these two modes, handling is the preferable, since it is the more
natural method--imitating, as it does, the suckling of the calf. When a
calf takes a teat into its mouth, it makes the tongue and palate by
which it seizes it, play upon the teat by alternate pressures or
pulsations, while retaining the teat in the same position. It is thus
obvious that handling is somewhat like sucking, whereas stripping is
not at all like it. It is said that stripping is good for agitating the
udder, the agitation of which is conducive to the withdrawal of a large
quantity of milk; but there is nothing to prevent the agitation of the
udder as much as the dairymaid pleases, while holding in the other mode.
Indeed, a more constant vibration could be kept up in that way by the
vibrations of the arms than by stripping. Stripping, by using an
unconstrained pressure on two sides of the teat, is much more apt to
press it unequally, than by grasping the whole teat in the palm of the
hand; while the friction occasioned by passing the finger and thumb
firmly over the outside of the teat, is more likely to cause heat and
irritation in it than a steady and full grasp of the entire hand. To
show that this friction causes an unpleasant feeling even to the
dairymaid, she is obliged to lubricate the teat frequently with milk,
and to wet it at first with water; whereas the other mode requires no
such expedients. And as a further proof that stripping is a mode of
milking which may give pain to the cow, it cannot be employed, when the
teats are chapped, with so much ease to the cow as handling.

The first requisite in the person that milks is, of course, the utmost
cleanliness. Without this, the milk is unendurable. The udder should,
therefore, be carefully cleaned before the milking commences.

Milking should be done fast, to draw away the milk as quickly as
possible, and it should be continued as long as there is a drop of milk
to bring away. This is an issue which cannot be attended to in too
particular a manner. If any milk is left, it is re-absorbed into the
system, or else becomes caked, and diminishes the tendency to secrete a
full quantity afterward. Milking as dry as possible is especially
necessary with young cows with their first calf; as the mode of milking
and the length of time to which they can be made to hold out, will have
very much to do with their milking qualities as long as they live. Old
milk left in the receptacle of the teat soon changes into a curdy state,
and the caseous matter not being at once removed by the next milking, is
apt to irritate the lining membrane of the teat during the operation,
especially when the teat is forcibly rubbed down between the finger and
thumb in stripping. The consequence of this repeated irritation is the
thickening of the lining membrane, which at length becomes so hardened
as to close up the orifice at the end of the teat. The hardened membrane
may be easily felt from the outside of the teat, when the teat is said
to be corded. After this the teat becomes deaf, as it is called, and
no more milk can afterward be drawn from the quarter of the udder to
which the corded teat is attached.

The milking-pail is of various forms and of various materials. The Dutch
use brass ones, which are brilliantly scoured every time they are in
use. Tin pitchers are used in some places, while pails of wood in
cooper-work are employed in others. A pail of oak, having thin staves
bound together by bright iron hoops, with a handle formed by a stave
projecting upward, is convenient for the purpose, and may be kept clean
and sweet. One nine inches in diameter at the bottom, eleven inches at
the top, and ten inches deep, with an upright handle or leg of five
inches, has a capacious enough mouth to receive the milk as it descends;
and a sufficient height, when standing on the edge of its bottom on the
ground, to allow the dairymaid to grasp it firmly with her knees while
sitting on a small three-legged stool. Of course, such a pail cannot be
milked full; but it should be large enough to contain all the milk which
a single cow can give at a milking; because it is undesirable to rise
from a cow before the milking is finished, or to exchange one dish for
another while the milking is in progress.

The cow being a sensitive and capricious creature, is, oftentimes so
easily offended that if the maid rise from her before the milk is all
withdrawn, the chances are that she will not again stand quietly at that
milking; or, if the vessel used in milking is taken away and another
substituted in its place, before the milking is finished, the
probability is that she will hold her milk--that is, not allow it to
flow. This is a curious property which cows possess, of holding up or
keeping back their milk. How it is effected has never been
satisfactorily ascertained; but there is no doubt of the fact that when
a cow becomes irritated, or frightened from any cause, she can withhold
her milk. Of course, all cows are not affected in the same degree; but,
as a proof how sensitive cows generally are, it may be mentioned that
very few will be milked so freely by a stranger the first time, as by
one to whom they have been accustomed.

There is one side of a cow which is usually called the milking
side--that is the cow's left side--because, somehow custom has
established the practice of milking her from that side. It may have been
adopted for two reasons: one, because we are accustomed to approach all
the larger domesticated animals by what we call the near side--that
is, the animal's left side--as being the most convenient one for
ourselves; and the other reason may have been, that, as most people are
right-handed, and the common use of the right hand has made it the
stronger, it is most conveniently employed in milking the hinder teats
of the cow, which are often most difficult to reach on account of the
position of the hind legs and the length of the hinder teats, or of the
breadth of the hinder part of the udder. The near side is most commonly
used in this country and in Scotland; but in many parts of England the
other side is preferred. Whichever side is selected, that should
uniformly be used, as cows are very sensitive to changes.

In Scotland it is a rare thing to see a cow milked by any other person
than a woman, though men are very commonly employed at it in this
country and in England. One never sees a man milking a cow without being
impressed with the idea that he is usurping an office which does not
become him; and the same thought seems to be conveyed in the terms
usually applied to the person connected with cows--a dairy-maid
implying one who milks cows, as well as performs the other duties
connected with the dairy--a dairy-man meaning one who owns a dairy.
There can be but little question that the charge of this branch of the
dairy should generally be entrusted to women. They are more gentle and
winning than men. The same person should milk the same cow regularly,
and not change from one to another, unless there are special reasons for

Cows are easily rendered troublesome on being milked; and the kicks and
knocks which they usually receive for their restlessness, only render
them more fretful. If they cannot be overcome by kindness, thumps will
never make them better. The truth is, restless habits are continued in
them by the treatment which they receive at first, when, most probably,
they have been dragooned into submission. Their teats are tender at
first; but an unfeeling, horny hand tugs at them at stripping, as if the
animal had been accustomed to the operation for years. Can the creature
be otherwise than uneasy? And how can she escape the wincing but by
flinging out her heels?--Then hopples are placed on the hind fetlocks,
to keep her heels down. The tail must then be held by some one, while
the milking is going on; or the hair of its tuft be converted into a
double cord, to tie the tail to the animal's leg. Add to this the many
threats and scoldings uttered by the milker, and one gets a not very
exaggerated impression of the "breaking-in."

Some cows, no doubt, are very unaccomodating and provoking; but,
nevertheless, nothing but a rational course toward them, administered
with gentleness, will ever render them less so. There are cows which are
troublesome to milk for a few times after calving, that become quite
quiet for the remainder of the season; others will kick pertinaciously
at the first milking. In this last case the safest plan--instead of
hoppling, which only irritates--is for the dairymaid to thrust her head
against the flank of the cow, and while standing on her feet, stretch
her hands forward, get hold of the teats the best way she can, and send
the milk on the ground; and in this position it is out of the power of
the cow to hurt her. These ebullitions of feeling at the first milking
after calving, arise either from feeling pain in a tender state of the
teat, most probably from inflammation in the lining membrane of the
receptacle; or they may arise from titillation of the skin of the udder
and teat, which becomes the more sensible to the affection from a heat
which is wearing off.

At the age of two or three years the milking glands have not become
fully developed, and their largest development will depend very greatly
upon the management after the first calf. Cows should have, therefore,
the most milk-producing food; be treated with constant gentleness; never
struck, or spoken harshly to, but coaxed and caressed; and in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, they will grow up gentle and quiet.
The hundredth had better be fatted and sent to the butcher. Harshness is
worse than useless. Be the cause of irritation what it may, one thing is
certain, that gentle discipline will overcome the most turbulent temper.
Nothing does so much to dry a cow up, especially a young cow, as the
senseless treatment to which she is too often subjected.

The longer the young cow, with her first and second calf, is made to
hold out, the more surely will this habit be fixed upon her. Stop
milking her four months before the next calf, and it will be difficult
to make her hold out to within four or six weeks of the time of calving
afterward. Induce her, if possible, by moist and succulent food, and by
careful milking, to hold out even up to the time of calving, if you
desire to milk her so long, and this habit will be likely to be fixed
upon her for life. But do not expect to obtain the full yield of a cow
the first year after calving. Some of the very best cows are slow to
develop their best qualities; and no cow reaches her prime till the age
of five or six years.

The extreme importance of care and attention to these points cannot be
overestimated. The wild cows grazing on the plains of South America, are
said to give not more than three or four quarts a day at the height of
the flow; and many an owner of large herds in Texas, it is said, has too
little milk for family use, and sometimes receives his supply of butter
from the New York market. There is, therefore, a constant tendency in
milch cows to dry up; and it must be guarded against with special care,
till the habit of yielding a large quantity, and yielding it long,
becomes fixed in the young animal, when, with proper care, it may easily
be kept up.

Cows, independently of their power to retain their milk in the udder,
afford different degrees of pleasure in milking them, even in the
quietest mood. Some yield their milk in a copious flow, with the
gentlest handling that can be given them; others require great exertion
to draw the milk from them even in streams no larger than a thread. The
udder of the former will be found to have a soft skin and short teats;
that of the latter will have a thick skin, with long rough teats. The
one feels like velvet; the other is no more pleasant to the touch than
untanned leather. To induce quiet and persuade the animal to give down
her milk freely, it is better that she should be fed at milking-time
with cut feed, or roots, placed within her easy reach.

If gentle and mild treatment is observed and persevered in, the
operation of milking, as a general thing, appears to be a pleasure to
the animal, as it undoubtedly is; but, if an opposite course is
pursued--if at every restless movement, caused, perhaps, by pressing a
sore teat, the animal is harshly spoken to--she will be likely to learn
to kick as a habit, and it will be difficult to overcome it ever

Whatever may be the practice on other occasions, there can be no doubt
that, for some weeks after calving, and in the height of the flow, cows
ought, if possible, to be milked regularly three times a day--at early
morning, noon, and night. Every practical dairyman knows that cows thus
milked give a larger quantity of milk than if milked only twice, though
it may not be quite so rich; and in young cows, no doubt, it has a
tendency to promote the development of the udder and milk-veins. A
frequent milking stimulates an increased secretion, therefore, and ought
never to be neglected in the milk-dairy, either in the case of young
cows, or very large milkers, at the height of the flow, which will
commonly be for two or three months after calving.

There being a great difference in the quality as well as in the quantity
of the milk of different cows, no dairyman should neglect to test the
milk of each new addition to his dairy stock, whether it be an animal of
his own raising or one brought from abroad. A lactometer--or instrument
for testing the comparative richness of different species of milk--is
very convenient for this purpose; but any one can set the milk of each
cow separately at first, and give it a thorough trial, when the
difference will be found to be great. Economy will dictate that the cows
least to the purpose should be disposed of, and their places supplied
with better ones.

Next: The Raising Of Calves

Previous: The Barn

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