Milking is an art that has been evolving over the decades. One of the most noticeable developments is the introduction of automated milking machines. These are robotic voluntary milking systems that were first introduced in the dairy industry in the 20th century. They have not only enabled farmers to completely automate the milking process but have also opened a window of technological advancements in the dairy industry.
The History Behind Milking Machines
Unlike other inventions such as the centrifugal cream separator, Babcock test and the hygienic milking and processing, the best milking machines weren’t easy coming. There’s so much to consider in a milking machine right from the milk quality to the safety and this meant more obstacles to overcome. The machines were faced with great opposition with many worried of the possibility of unnatural or intrinsic injuries to the animals with some arguing that the machines would result in lower standard dairy animals and poor quality milk.
The resistance and challenges faced by professionals who were determined to revolutionize the dairy industry didn’t stop them from pursuing what may have been termed to be a losing battle. The introduction of milking tubes broke the ice and rejuvenated the zeal and enthusiasm to settle for nothing but the best milking machines. Well, these were not your ordinary tubes. Surprisingly, wood tubes and feather quills were in use. This was before tubes made of ivory, bone; gutta percha and pure silver were introduced.
In 1851, a vacuum milker whose gutta percha cup was fitted to a hand pump was patented. This marked another phase of innovations which introduced speed and efficiency. These machines had the capacity to draw milk from all the teats at once but had the tendency to damage the mammary tissue.
Well, the inventions continued with a foot operated Mehring machine being introduced in the late 1890s. This machine could milk two cows at the same time with the operator providing vacuum by working on the foot levers.
Not long after that, the thistle milker which was powered by a steam driven pump was introduced. This was very efficient but presented sanction challenges and the search for the best milking machine continued.
The Automation Process
Even with the introduction of the milking machines, a lot of labor was involved in the milking process until the 20th century when semi-automated and automatic milking machines were introduced. This was an advancement that built on the fabric set by the 19th century developers. It included the introduction of automated milk extraction, cluster removal, teat spraying and cleaning.
The Different Types of Milking Machines
There are many different types of milking machines in use today. While some are manual, most of them are automated. Different farms will go for different machines depending on the animals they keep and the specific needs. There are machines specially designed for cattle while others are designed to milk goats and sheep. Well, let’s shed some light on the different types of machines commonly used in modern dairy farms. These machines include;
- Milking machines with bucket system
- Barrow type
- Milking machine with pipe in milking parlor
- Mobile milking machine
Milking Machine With Bucket System
The bucket system milking machines have been in use for decades and are still used to date. They are popular among farmers whose farms host 100 to 150 animals. This is a fairly low number of animals and the investment is considerably low.
These machines consist of;
- The trap protection (The vacuum pipeline, Vacuum regulator, The bucket)
- The Vacuum pump
The average capacity is 25L and while some slide on rails others will be installed on the roof.
This is the machine designed to sit on a frame with two or four wheels and has no vacuum pipe. As such, there is absolutely no need to install fixed equipment making them a great fit for semi-extensive and extensive farming.
A barrow milking machine has the capacity of milking 80 animals. Its performance is way better compared with the bucket milking machine thus popular among farmers across the globe.
Milking machine with pipe in milking parlor
These are machines designed to milk several cows from a specific parlor. Normally, they will be classified depending on the position of the milker in relation to the animal or the method of entrance into the parlor.
Casse Type parlor Milking Machines
These are machines that are popular in Greece. They are the machines that serve parlors with one pit and two ramps. Normally, the animal will be head locked against the axis of the pit in a vertical position. The number of stalls ranges from 6-66 with the ratio of milking units being 1:1, 1:2, 1:3 or 1:4. These machines may be classified further based on the types of parlors in use but we shall come to that in another post.
Mobile Milking Machines
Fixed machines were very popular and they still are but they seemed not to meet some needs especially when it came to mobility. This triggered the introduction of mobile equipment which can attend to flocks located in different parts of the farm. Such systems are popular in nomadic and semi-nomadic flock systems.
The mobility of the equipment is pegged on a two or four wheeler platform that enables movement from one point to the other. Everything else remains as it is in other systems with the popular positions being 1×2, 2×12 and 2×24. Each milker can handle an average 80 animals per hour making them very efficient.
Milking machines have come a long way and the inventions keep bringing in more surprises. Just when you thought you have the best milking machine another is introduced and this makes it one of the industries to watch. There’s so much to expect and learn about these machines and you cannot run short of information about these machines. Just spare some time to read about the different types of machines before you can make the next step to buy a milking machine for your farm.