If you've got a cow with small teats, you've got to figure out how to get her milk out of her udders in an unconventional-for-cows way. After all, it's like you've got to deal with goat or sheep teats on much larger udders. Of course, it does mean that you'll spend more time with your cow if you're milking her by hand. But she'll listen while you tell her what's on your mind.
Milking a cow with small teats requires downsizing the equipment that touches the teats. For hand milking, you will use only your fingers and thumbs instead of your whole hand. Also, the cow will need smaller milking liners to fit on her teats if you're milking her in a parlor.
In dairy farming, cows with smaller teats are preferable due to their milk flow and reduced chances of developing mastitis. However, milking cows with small teats means using only your fingers. Otherwise, it gets messy, and there will be a lot of waste. Nor can you use ordinary milking liners because those will hurt her teats. So, how do you milk a cow with small teats?
How To Milk A Cow With Small Teats By Hand?
Milking a cow with small teats requires using two fingers and a thumb instead of your whole hand. You can also use both hands to double the milk from a teat. However, doing so will limit you to milking one teat at a time.
The trick with milking a cow is to emulate the natural sucking sensation of a calf and keep her as relaxed as possible. Below are the steps to help you milk a cow with small teats using your fingers.
Step 1: Secure The Cow
Ensure the cow is tied to a robust post or stanchion with a halter. You'll need enough space to sit alongside the cow's udders. Depending on the cow's temperament, you might need to limit the movement of her back legs without hurting her.
Step 2: Clean And Dry The Teats And Udders
Clean the cow's udders and teats using warm water or an iodine solution. Warm water is recommended to encourage the "let down" reflex, which releases milk from the mammary glands. After you've cleaned them, you can gently pat the area down to avoid the solution mixing with the milk.
Other cleaning tips include the following:
- Use soapy water only if the udders are very dirty. Warm water alone should be fine.
- Use a disinfected cloth for each cow to prevent the spread of infection.
- Ensure the udder is dry to prevent the skin from becoming irritated.
Step 3: Position The Bucket
If you're new to hand-milking, place the bucket under the udder. If you're more adept at milking, hold it between your legs and squirt the milk at an angle. Doing so will prevent the cow from kicking over the almost-full bucket.
Step 4: Assume The Milking Position
The position in which you sit or squat alongside the cow's udders should allow you a quick escape should she become uncooperative. For example, sitting on the floor with legs crossed isn't ideal. Instead, keep a low seat nearby, allowing you to stand up and move away in a hurry.
Step 5: Lube Up For Reduced Friction
Use a lubricant like Vaseline to reduce the friction on your hands and your cow's teats. It will reduce the chances of skin irritation for both you and the cow.
Step 6A: Milking A Small Teat With One Hand
Trap the milk with your index finger and thumb at the top of the teat. Hold that position at the top of the teat to prevent the milk from flowing back into the udder. Then, use your middle finger to squeeze down the milk.
Once the milk has squirted out, repeat the trap-hold-squeeze cycle until that quarter (mammary gland) is empty. If you're able, you can milk two small teats simultaneously using this method or alternate hands on the same teat.
Step 6B: Milking A Small Teat With Two Hands
You can use both hands to double the volume of milk per squirt, but it limits you to milking one teat at a time. Here's how:
- Put one hand (thumb and two fingers) above the teat on the udder to trap the milk and squeeze it down to the teat.
- Hold that position to prevent the milk from flowing back into the udder.
- Use your other hand (thumb and two fingers) to squeeze the milk through the teat.
- Repeat until that mammary gland is empty: trap-hold-squeeze down.
Step 7: Check The Milk Before Continuing
Once you've squirted out some milk, check it for any abnormalities. For example, the cow could have mastitis in that quarter if the milk contains blood or flakes. If so, you should only milk that teat once the mastitis has been treated and has healed. However, you can milk the other teats, as cows have four mammary glands.
What To Avoid When Hand-Milking A Cow With Short Teats?
Since milking a cow with small teats differs from a cow with regular teats, you shouldn't use your whole hand. So instead, you must keep the rest of your hand out of the way. Otherwise, the milk will squirt down your hand and wrist.
Since you're using your fingertips instead of your whole hand, keeping your fingernails short is recommended. Doing so will prevent minor cuts on the teat, which could become sore and infected.
Additionally, refrain from yanking on the teats or applying too much force when pulling or squeezing. Using your thumb and forefinger to strip the teat is also unadvisable because it doesn't emulate the natural sucking motion of a calf. In addition, stripping can hurt the cow and cause irritation within the ducts and sphincter, affecting the flow of milk or contaminating it with blood.
Can You Milk A Cow With Small Teats Using A Milking Machine?
It is possible to milk a cow with small teats using a milking machine in a parlor. However, the milking liner you choose would need to be smaller to fit the smaller teat. The liner is part of the milking machine that encompasses the teat and pulls down the milk.
It is imperative to ensure liners fit the teat well to prevent hurting the cow. The teat should reach the barrel of the liner for it to be comfortable and useful. If not, the liner will apply pressure to the wrong parts of the teat, causing discomfort and swelling.
Why Do Some Milk Cows Have Small Teats?
A cow's teat size is determined by its genetics. In the dairy industry, small teats are helpful for milk production because the smaller ducts improve milk flow and are less prone to infection. As a result, geneticists have focused on breeding dairy cows with smaller teats.
Below are the ideal lengths of the teats of some dairy cows:
Black And White Danish
Table 1: Ideal teat length of dairy cows bred to have short teats
The Benefits Of Milk Cows With Small Teats
Studies have shown that cows with shorter teats have a higher milk yield on hand milking, plus a better milk flow. Additionally, smaller teats tend to have thinner canals, reducing the chances of infection entering the teat.
The Disadvantages Of Milk Cows With Small Teats
One of the disadvantages of manually milking a cow with short teats is that it takes much longer to milk her. If a cow's teats are tiny, it will be extra challenging to milk her by hand or mechanically. In addition, milking liners are made predominantly for cows with larger teats, making them difficult to attach to small teats.
Milking a dairy cow with small teats is "udderly" possible and potentially more lucrative than a cow with regular teats. It might take longer than usual initially, but once you've found your best method, you'll become a pro with practice. Also, your cow with little teats might save you more in veterinary bills than cows with bigger teats.