Recent travels have taken me to places I don’t usually visit. Good news is they have cows there too. One of the topics of discussion in these locations has been milking cows without detachers.
The real question isn’t can it be done, my 10 year old son CAN back the car out of the garage, the question is can it be done well as in the instance of if my 10 year old son backing my wife’s new car out of the garage, now we have a dilemma.
Automation was designed to either replace or enhance the manual process of milking cows. One of the most common reasons for purchasing automatic milking detachers was to deliver consistency. The concept was that every person judges milk flow a little differently and using them as the judge delivered varying outcomes, installing a detacher then would eliminate the variation from person to person delivering a consistent outcome day in and day out to the cow.
The concept did and still does have merit, delivering consistent detaches to cows is critical to udder health, unfortunately, as with many great ideas, the execution has had some flaws. Early detachers didn’t handle the parlor environment well, later iterations didn’t detach at high enough flow settings to accommodate 3x milking and support teat end health. Current models do both, handle the corrosive environments of milking parlors and detach at settings high enough to deliver comfortable cows. The remaining stumbling block then is maintenance, getting all the detachers to work correctly every milking has been difficult and costly for some producers and the decision to go without has been made.
Can it work? The simple answer is absolutely, the complicated question is can it be done well? Just like my son can absolutely back the car out of the garage I wouldn’t let him do it by himself until I was comfortable he understood the process and proved to me he could handle the job. In the instance of milking manually it comes down to process (what are we asking the people to do) and timing (can the process be completed in the time allowed).
Look at the process; can it deliver 10-15 seconds of manual stimulation? 90 seconds to 150 seconds lag time? Can the milking units be removed within 1 minute of low milk flow? Remember, low cows don’t take as long to milk; heifers don’t take as long to milk.
The manual milking barn can absolutely work, sometimes very well, but just like relying on the detacher to milk all cows correctly with no maintenance, the manual system needs maintenance in training and teaching to deliver adequate results.