The Truth About Electric Milkers – Is it faster? Better? Easier?

 I have been asked the same question numerous times in the past 2 weeks…… by different people.

If there have been people writing to me, asking about an electric milk pump – that probably means there may be even more people out in blog land wondering the same thing.

So…… let’s talk about Electric Milk Pumps!

I’ll begin by stating that I am down with hand milking.  I think it’s FOR SURE the kewlest way to go.  Yes.  I said, “Kewl.”  If you are 16 years old “kewl” is the cool way to say, “cool.”  Yup.  Kewl is the new cool.

Why I think hand milking is best:

  1. Hands are free
  2. Hands don’t break (usually)
  3. Hands don’t need oil, electricity or pulsators to operate
  4. Hands are easy to clean
  5. Hands work when it’s negative 10 degrees
  6. Hands are sustainable
  7. Hands don’t need the grid
  8. Hands can be taken anywhere (milk wherever you want)
  9. Hand milking will make you strong & give you exercise

So, if you are hand milking – you are a rockstar!!!!!

I hand milked for long enough to know that I don’t want to hand milk.  Ha!

When we got our first milk cow (many years ago) we planned to hand milk forever and ever.  I had NO intentions to ever buy an electric milker or milk with anything but my hands.

  • I wanted the experience.
  • I wanted the knowledge.
  • I wanted the skillset.
  • I wanted the independence.
  • I wanted the exercise.
  • I wanted the strength.

It was all positives for me.  I knew it would be hard.  I knew it would be a learning curve.  I knew I could do it.  I am one determined girl when I set my mind to something.  Nothing was going to stop me from hand milking my own cow.

Enter………chronic  mastitis.  More on that here.

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

So, this determined, old fashioned, hand-milking girl was in a nightmare with a sick, sick cow.  Our first Jersey cow, Faith, had been on a milking line for years prior to coming to our farm.  She could not be transitioned to hand milking.  Trust me, I tried for months.  She was very, very sick and my hands could not do what an electric milker could do.

I borrowed an electric portable milker from a good friend and it really helped with the humongous mastitis problem I was living through.   I was lucky to have a portable milker to use for the months it took us to find our very own electric milker.
I have now been using an electric milker for years and I am here to tell you, even though hand-milking may be the kewlest way to go (and the best) using an electric milker is FABULOUS.

Yeah, I may be dependent on electricity and connected to the grid and sucking up resources, BUT I am in and out of the milk barn in 15 minutes.  Yup.  I can get to my cow field, milk 2 cows, feed them, clean out the milking equipment and be back at the house in less than 30 minutes.

Glorious modern conveniences.

My life is very full – I have 4 children to homeschool & can’t spend hours doing cow related chores every morning.  I love working with the cows, but I want to be done in a reasonable amount of time so I can make breakfast for my kiddos.  Ya know?

So, if you are thinking about going from hand milking to an electric milker I’m here to tell you the truth:

  • Yes – it’s easier.
  • Yes – It’s faster.
  • Yes – It’s cleaner. The milk goes straight from the teats, through the squeaky clean tubes and into the sparkling clean bucket.  No hair, flies, dirt, manure, or hooves will EVER come in contact with your fresh, pure milk.  If you drink your milk raw, like I do, using an electric milker will definitely help you capture cleaner milk.
  • Yes – it can help with mastitis.
  • Yes – Your 12 year old can do it.
  • Yes – You will have more time to drink coffee in the morning.

It’s true.

I think you’ll LOOOOOOOVE having an electric milker.  It will certainly save you tons of time.  It only takes about 5 mintues to milk a cow with an electric milker & cleaning it is a cinch.  I waaaaaaaaaay prefer this to hand milking.

So, what kind of electric milker do I recommend?

This is a funny question.  I have absolutely no opinion as to which electric milker is best.  All I can tell you is my experience.

When we bought our electric milker our only requirements were: 

  1. It could milk a cow 
  2. It was under $500

I didn’t care if it was a bucket, surge, portable or feathered.  It just had to work and cost under $500. 

We had just bought a cow.  Put up the fence.  Built the milk barn.  Run the plumbing, heat, concrete, etc.  We had NO MORE MONEY for an electric milker.  Remember, I was going to be the the Dairy Queen and hand milk for the rest of my life.

So, Mastitis Hell entered my world & all my hand-milking dreams were shattered.  A dear friend came to my rescue with her portable electric milker for me to use while I figured out what I was going to do.

The (borrowed) portable number worked well (as long as the weather was above 35 degrees). 

How did I like the portable milker?  It worked fine in spring, summer and fall.  When the weather dropped below 40 degrees it didn’t work.  Literally.  I would plug it in and nothing happened.  Not a rumble.  Not a groan.  Nothing.  I thought I had broke the stupid thing and would now have to spend $1500 to replace my friend’s milker that I broke. AND still buy myself one I could use for my sick, defective, infected cow.  Luckily, when the sun warmed up the milk barn, the little portable number began chugging again like a top.  Thank the Lord.  

Cold weather was it’s kryptonite and there was nothing that could get that baby running during winter.  The only thing that got us through those cold weeks mastitis-free was her calf.  When you have a hungry calf, you don’t have mastitis.  At least, it did the trick in my case.  

The calf got to enjoy my milk while I searched for an electric milker.

That search was difficult.  Back then, everything I could find was $2000!!!  How on earth do people afford these things?  My daughter’s car was only $3500 and its a car.  So, there was no way DH was going to spend $2000 on equipment to milk a cow…. when hands are free.  

My online search was going nowhere & I needed a pump.  I went to Stockyards Dairy Supply and talked to the owner.  Super guy.  His family has owned Stockyards Dairy for….. ever.  I told him what I wanted and asked him if he could find me something for under $500.  He laughed and shook his head at me and said he’d see what he could do.  
It took him a couple of months, but he managed to get it done.  My pump is ancient.  He estimated that it is between 80 and 100 years old.  So awesome!  

It’s made of cast iron works like a champ.  It will probably run for another 100 years.  He assembled it, tubes, pulsator, milk bucket & all.  All for $500.  He taught us how to service it, how it works and loaded it in the back of our truck.  


We had a friend (electrician) install it in our milk barn.  He even wired it to a light switch so all I have to do is flip a switch & I’m milking my cows.  It is enormous and wired in my barn so I can’t take it anywhere – but I love it.

Now that I have experienced the glory of the electric milk pump I never want to go back to hand milking……

I have plenty of experience hand milking & would rather clean a milk pump any day. As long as God provides electricity I plan to never milk by hand again.  LOL

HOW TO FIND AN ELECTRIC MILKER

BUILD ONE

Your first and cheapest option is to build one.  This is pretty much what we did…. except I wasn’t the one building it.  My friend at StockYards Dairy built it for me.

If I were you I would find an OLD dairy supply company near you and give them a call first, it that fails, you can always consider a DIY system.


I’m told it’s not that complicated and lots of folks have built their own milking systems.  Here is an article detailing how to pull it off: DIY Milking Machine.

FIND ONE THAT’S PRE-OWNED

DH & I own a pawnshop so pretty much everything we own is second hand.  I am unafraid of used merchandise and love a great deal.  This makes pre-owned a slam dunk for me.  

To find a used electric milker you can check Craigslist or go where dairy people are and start asking.

Around here this would be Kentucky Cattlemen Association meetings, Dairy shows, Goat events or even the local livestock auction.  It’s amazing how many old farmers have milk pumps in the back of a barn somewhere that no one is using. And if they don’t have one, there’s a chance that they know someone who does.

Another place I have seen (second hand) electric milk pumps for sale is the Keeping a Family Cow Facebook page.  Go here to see it.  They have had pumps for sale.

BUY ONE NEW

Buying a new electric milker is always the fastest and easiest option – but it’s also the most expensive.  The good news is that it will come with a warranty (most likely) and instructions (would have been nice).  You may even have the ability to phone your sales representative and let them walk you through the entire apparatus.
I’ve heard great things about Hamby Dairy Supply and E-ZEE Milking Equipment.  E-Zee apparently has some nice, affordable models.  

PUT UP A SIGN

My last idea is to put up a sign.  I live right off a highway & I have put signs in my yard for different things.  I had a “Jersey Cow Wanted” sign up before we got our milk cow.   If you live on a busy street – you could put out a sign that says, “Electric Milk Pump Wanted” with your phone number under the sign.  

We also own a pawnshop – so when I am searching for something I sometimes put a sign up there or just ask everyone who comes in the door wearing overalls if they know where I can find a milk pump.  
I don’t know much about all the electric milkers available…  Do you have one?  Do you like it?  What would you recommend?  Do you think hands are better?

Add your ideas in the comment section!

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XO,

Candi

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