Lately I have had a lot of people calling me with questions about milking Miniature Jerseys. There have been some false statements made by larger cow owners about Miniature Jerseys being difficult to milk. I am going to set the record straight. I actually own and milk over 20 Miniature Jersey cows per year. I have milked more Standard size Jerseys than I can count. I suppose I have as much or more experience in this area than anyone else and feel qualified to give some accurate information.
Height. Does it make a difference?
Standard size: These days standard Jersey cows are so tall that it is actually harder to aim the milk in the bucket. The size of the teats has been selectively bred for to accommodate modern milking machines. They are normally about 2 inches long. This is a little short for most beginning hand milkers. For those of us who have had more experience, it does not make much difference. The regular, standard Milking Machine with claw works great with no issues.
Mid-Size: These cows are actually very easy to milk. There is plenty of clearance for the bucket and it is easy to aim into the bucket. The cows tend to have the same size teats as standard cows. The regular, standard Milking Machine with claw works great with no issues.
Mini: Miniature cows who are 39-42 inches in height are really not much different to milk. They actually on average have the same size teats as the Standard and Midsize cows. Usually on the taller range of Mini, there is clearance for your bucket. Truthfully, some of the smaller size cows can be harder to milk for taller people. A friend of mine came up with a very simple way make the mini a little “taller” for milking. All you need to do is put a block of wood under her hind feet and teach her to stand on it. Having an extra 6 inches or so for the 10 minutes you milk makes it just like milking a Mid-size cow. The regular, standard Milking Machine with claw works great. No issues. I milk 5-10 Miniature cows twice a day. I do not have ANY problems with getting them milked by hand or machine. In fact, my machine works so well that I put it on, leave the barn for 5 minutes and return to remove it and move on to the next cow. If anyone tells you that you need a “special size machine” for Miniatures is absolutely not being truthful. Likely, the real problem is they have mechanical problems with their machine.
What about Teat Size?
For most beginner milkers, approximately 3 inch long teats can be easier to milk. Once you get the hang of it, you can basically milk smaller teats just as easily. Obviously, on occasion there might be a cow with “really tiny” teats. On the other hand, occasionally you find one with with “huge” teats. Most cows that are mini in size actually have the same size teats as larger cows.
Large Teats are actually NOT desirable and are considered a conformation fault!
Why? The reality of the situation is that large size teats often get injured. Often they step on them when they are trying to stand up. Other cows accidentally step on them as well. In very cold weather, large teats can get frostbite. Sometimes this is so bad they fall off. Large size teats will NOT fit in a regular, standard Milking Machine. The larger teats make milking by hand harder as well. Medium size teats are the breed standard and are what most of our Miniature Jerseys are producing.
What matters more than teat size when milking?
The hole the milk comes out of is called an orifice. Some cows have smaller orifices than others. It is easy to milk a cow with big orifices. The milk pours out with little effort. If the holes are too big, the milk will leak out regularly which is not a good thing. Teats that leak regularly all day (not just at milking time) are more prone to mastitis. Cows with tiny orifices are incredibly difficult to milk by hand. Those cows are much better for machine milking. The hardest cows to milk have large teats and small orifices.
Milking by Machine
Milking by machine is wonderful. The milk is ultra clean which is very desirable. If you have a machine that has mechanical problems, you will have issues with milking. The most common problem is vacuum loss. Vacuum loss can be caused by the wrong replacement parts, holes in your rubber inflations, the wrong lid seal and water or ice in your lines. A properly working machine has enough suction to latch right on to the teat. It hangs with some clearance off the ground. If your machine is not working properly, you will have issues getting the machine to stay on the teats. This is not a “teat size” problem. This is caused by lack of vacuum.
Should you use a Milking Machine?
It is my firm belief that anyone considering selling milk shares or who might consider drinking raw milk should be milking by machine. It is costly to purchase a machine. However, the difference between machine milked and hand milked is amazing. Milk that is produced by hand milking is filthy. It is full of hair, dirt and manure. Milk that is milked by machine is very clean. We must remember that we are no longer milking on our grandparents farms. Back in the day they did not have to worry about superbugs like MRSA. Today’s bacteria are tough and antibiotic resistant. The cleaner the milk we bring to the table, the safer it is for our families. Consider purchasing a machine and learn to properly milk your cow and clean your machine. Lastly, remember to milk test your cow on occasion to ensure you continue to provide a quality product for your family.