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.

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