Are you building a farm and having trouble deciding between hiring labour or buying automatic milking machinery? Or is your traditional dairy farm simply growing and you are considering an upgrade to milking machines? In either case, it is essential to make your choice depending on the advantages and disadvantages of both systems.


Considering how many farmers turn to them, milking machinery are bound to have numerous advantages that allow dairy farms to operate effectively while optimizing profits.

1. Increase Activity
Milking machine allows the dairy farm to increase their activity with a larger herd. Indeed, proper milking machinery can manage herds faster while ensuring the quality of the milk, which allows farmers to harvest from more cattle than they could with traditional means.

2. Labour Cost
The second advantage is quite obvious and lies in the money saved by avoiding labour expenses. A big dairy farm that harvests manually will normally require at least a dozen of employees to function properly. With automatic milking machinery, only a few will be required.

3. Reduced work force
Thirdly, still considering the labour factor, milking machinery also reduces the farmโ€™s dependency on workers. On a traditional farm, if skilled workers cannot work anymore or decide to leave the farm, this would have a great effect on the milk production, and affect the sales. With milking machinery, it would be quite easy to find someone to operate the machines and ensure that the dairy farm will remain in activity at all times.

4. Clean Milk
When you hand milk a cow, there are bits of hay, hair and sometimes even flecks of manure that land in your hard earned milk bucket. A fine strainer is only good to so many levels. If a fleck of manure lands in my milk bucket, the milk is fed to the chickens or pigs. When using a milk machine, the bucket is fully enclosed and sealed. There is no opportunity for contamination during the milking process. This keeps the milk fresh and clean

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5. No sore hands or arms
Building the arm muscles to correctly milk a cow takes a few weeks. Hand milking will quickly build you some nice arm muscles and some seriously sore ones at that.

6. Easy to hire a farm sitter
Its a challenge to find someone in todayโ€™s modern culture that know hows to hand milk a cow. With a milk machine, there is a slight learning curve, yes, but its a pretty simple lesson. The uneasy feeling a farmer gets when having someone else milk is beyond nerve racking. There are many possibilities that can go wrong with a untrained milker, like, not having enough arm strength to actually milk the cow, the cow wonโ€™t let her milk down, the cow kicked, it took too long and the milk sat for a inappropriate amount of time and of course, not completely emptying the bag, putting her at risk for infection. But with a milk machine, you know that once the machine is hooked up, your cow is going to get milked, correctly and quickly.

7. Quicker cooling milk
The longer the milk sits out in the bucket, the more โ€œbarnie or cowieโ€ (those are both words, right? the milk will taste. The quicker the milk is chilled, the better the milk will taste. Pretty simple. While your hand milking, the milk will slowly cool to room temperature and begin to taste off, almost like the way a barn smells. Gross. The trick to quickly cooling the milk, is to quickly get the milk in the bucket.

8. Time efficiency
You can multitask while the machine is milking. While you can only milk two quarters at a time with hands, ( sometimes one if the girl is a kicker), the machine will milk all four quarters at the same time. It only takes about 5 minutes to milk out a cow with the machine. This is the best advantage of the milk machine.

Finally, a proper milking routine will reduce the stress on the stock, which not only improves the health of the animals, but also ensure a higher quality in the dairy harvest.

However, like with any other business, choosing to machinery to machinery comes with certain limitations.

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1. Expensive
A milk machine is VERY expensive investment. In Kenya, the milking machines ranges from Kshs. 85,000 for a single 30ltr bucket and above

2. Pain to clean
While it only takes 5 minutes to milk out a cow, it takes 25 minutes to thoroughly clean this machine. Skimping on cleaning steps is not one you should mess with. Bacteria particles can gather in the tubes and contaminate the fresh milk, potentially making your family and others sick.

3. Cows adaptation
This will come with older cattle. Normally used to hand milking, older cows will have trouble adjusting to automatic milking machinery. This may increase their stress levels, and thus the milk quality. Thankfully, the next generation will be used to the milking machinery, which makes this a short term disadvantage.

4. Electricity supply
The machinery will need a constant supply of electricity. This means that in cases of damages to the power supply system or during blackouts, the dairy farm will not be able to operate properly. These effects can however be minimized with emergency power supply systems.

Even though you love the one on one connection with your cows while hand milking, its only makes sense to hand milk one cow. If your milking more than one cow, or a fussy cow or even a cow with high production, such as a Holstein, I really recommend purchasing a milking machine. It will pay for itself in both time and money. While we thrive to do things simple on the homestead, saving time is always a top priority.

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Finally!! If a proper policy is put in place, switching to an automatic milking system can be the best investment a dairy farm can make to meet the highest standards in terms of quality and performance.

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