When it comes to milking cows properly, three terms are commonly used: gentle, quick and complete.

These terms are often in direct conflict with one another. If one wants to pursue complete milking, it is often neither quick nor gentle. If the goal is quick, complete is often left by the wayside. If gentle is the objective, it is often difficult to be complete.

One of the distinct advantages of automated milking today is the ability to milk each quarter of the cow based on the individual quarter’s needs. The average cow does not distribute milk evenly among each quarter, yet most conventional systems are designed to milk the udder as a whole. When individual quarters are monitored – as they are in most modern automated systems – for milk flow independently from the rest of the udder, the individual needs of that quarter can be more closely met.

Looking at the needs of the cow, or the quarters of the cow, in relation to those three terms can be difficult. To be gentle means teat tissue is not congested or left in a significantly worse condition after milking. This is accomplished by various means but is clearly improved when the proper liner, pulsation and vacuum levels are used. Milking should also not expose the teat to vacuum when milk flow is insufficient. Robots can control stimulation, lag time and detach threshold by individual quarter. This greatly reduces the risk of the teat being exposed to vacuum when milk flow doesn’t warrant it.

To achieve “quick” while milking, the individual teat can be prevented from milking before it is ready. Vacuum and pulsation levels can also be tailored for high flow levels. Through individually accurate monitoring, teat cups are removed as flow falls below these high levels.


Lastly, when looking at “complete,” each individual quarter can be milked more completely because it is separately monitored. Quarters containing more milk can continue milking after the machine has detached from lesser-filled quarters.

Because of the accuracy of individual quarter monitoring, the goals of quick and gentle can be easily attained, and the goal of complete is not in direct opposition to gentle.

When looking at the stimulus of the cow to produce more milk, it is directly related to the completeness of harvest. Cows are hard-wired to feed a calf. If the calf doesn’t consume all the milk, the cow would start to produce less. If the calf completely removes the milk, the cow produces more to ensure the calf’s healthy growth.

Completely harvesting without damaging the teat, doing it accurately by quarter and the gathering of all available milk are made possible with automated milking technology. It has delivered a means to accomplish all three terms: gentle, quick and complete. end mark

PHOTO: The monitoring of milk flow by quarter in automated milking systems helps satisfy the three goals of milking. Courtesy photo.

Paul Peetz is a milking technology manager with Lely North America. Email Paul Peetz.