From Farm to Market
Where Milk Comes From
The period during which a cow is producing milk is called lactation. Milk production through lactation occurs on a curve with peak production early in the period. Cows begin a new laction about every 13 months with several months vacation in between laction periods. During lactation, at least twice a day, sometimes three, and at regularly scheduled intervals, cows are milked using milking machines. These are part of a complicated vacuum system designed to gently remove milk from the udder. A regulator keeps the vacuum at the recommended level and a pulsator alternates vacuum so you end up with this whoosh-suck-whoosh-suck rhythm sound. If you hear that sound near a barn, you know the farmer is busy milking! Sometimes cows are milked in their stalls in a big long barn where the farmer brings the milking machine to the cow. Other times cows are brought to the milking machine in a milking parlor. A milking parlor is a specially designed facility to hold cows in position for safe and easy milking. They enter through one door, are held in a stall for milking, then exit through another door. Some really big modern dairy farms have circular parlors where the cows are conveyed around in a circle. It's totally cool engineering!

MoreThe milking process.
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Copyright 1997 Kathleen A. O'Connell and Sean P. O'Connell
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