Having a dairy cow at your personal "beck and call" is wonderful beyond words. You will not believe how many things you will be able to create with your own hands with the milk you get from your fabulous cow. Milk is the easy one, then there is cream, butter, yogurt, mozzarella, cheese, soap, ice cream, kefir, all the soft and hard cheeses.
The list goes on and on and is only limited by your imagination and your time.
First off... A little background
I would not be milking today if I was forced to hand-milk. I would also not be milking if I was forced to invest in the equipment the large dairies use. I knew there had to be a way for me to milk, by myself, the easy way. Well, I found the answer and it was the "bucket milker." These things are wonderful and affordable and save SO much time and effort. Milking is actual something I look forward to. With a bucket milker, milking also becomes something that you can train someone else to do while you are gone. No friend can be a good enough friend to come hand milk your cow for you when are gone... but show them how to use a bucket milker and you will be set... my mother milks for me when I need her to and she does a fabulous job and she has no idea about dairy cows.
I have tried several bucket milkers and will tell you my favorites and why.
Things We Have Learned, People We Know & Products We Trust.
The Vaccuum Pump
This 1.5 hp standard mobile milker pump plugs into a regular 110 outlet and it is pretty quiet. Simply, it creates the "pressure" to run the milker so it will pulsate and milk all four teats of the cow automatically while you watch. The pump is probably the most expensive part of the set-up. I chose to invest in a good one...one that was specific for milking cows as the pressure needs to be regulated. I also wanted something easy to run and easy to maintain.
This is a 1.5 hp Conde pump that available through Parts Department (one of my favorite suppliers)
You can milk up to 4 cows with this pump so it gives you room to grow.
A small vacuum pump will cost anywhere from $700 to $1500 depending and should never wear out.
There are lots of different styles - big , small, stainless steel, plastic - I like the plastic buckets the best. They are so much lighter, you can see the milk going into them, you can see when they are clean, kids love them too. I have one of each of these. The white plastic bucket is easier to clean so I think it is better for when you are keeping the milk for human consumption. I use the clear plastic bucket for demos, when I have someone else milk for me, and on newly fresh cows.
The Lid and Pulsator
Again, there are lots of different kinds so you can experiment. I always have 2 lids and 2 pulsators in case one breaks -- I don't want to have to wait a couple days to get a new one. It is always handy to have a backup.
I use the BRK pulsator as they are affordable (about $80.00) and last a long time. I use a DeLaval style Lid with one hose connection. Lids also come with 2 connections but it is just one more crevice to clean if you aren't using it. Lids will come with a gasket.
This is really complicated part in my opinion... there are SO many choices and so many different recommendations. The claw is the "business" end of your milker so you want this to be perfect or your cow will not be happy and you will not be happy. Trust me on this. I have tried and spent a lot of money on an amazing amount of different combinations. Again, I am going to tell you what works best for me. Everyone recommends the Westfalia 300 claw but it is ridiculously hard to take apart and clean and my cows hate it. They stomp and fuss with the 300. Also this claw is meant to be used with dairies that have the caustic chemicals (acid wash, etc.) and autowashers. I am a raw milk fan and I am a freak about cleanliness so this claw is terrible for the bucket milker.
I prefer the DeLaval Standard Flo Vu Claw. It is small, clear, lightweight, the cows don't stomp and fuss about it, and best of all .. it is SUPER easy to clean after each and every milking... Love this one!
The original Standard Flo Vu was the first to have the stainless steel top and twist off plastic bowl. This claw is a smaller design of the DeLaval Super Flo Claw, it has become a favorite for many producers due to its compact design. The highly sanitary rounded milk chamber has no corners and is very easily cleaned. It provides proper air admission via the air vent provides the correct amount of air required to move the milkout of the claw quickly. Add the available air vent with take off clip to the claw and this popular claw is able to be used with a detacher making it a very versatile claw.
these are the rubber tubes that are placed on each teat of the cow and again, lots of choices here. If you have Jerseys, always mention that to your supplier as the inflations are smaller than the ones for other cows. I prefer the silicone inflations and so do the cows. They are a little more expensive than the black rubber ones but if you are milking 1 cow, once a day, they should last about 5 years.
If you want the supplier to help you buy an entire set-up, just mention some particulars like the claw, inflations, lid style and they can put together an entire package with the hoses, etc. and send you something that will be ready to go right out of the box.
What a complete set-up looks like.
I purchase all my bucket milker supplies from the supplier below. There are many suppliers out there but these folks understand the challenges and differences that bucket milkers have. They can fix you up with anything and will answer all your questions patiently and respectfully. Again, I know as I have talked with lots of suppliers and these folks are the best in my opinion.
Parts Department Online www.partsdeptonline.com 800-245-8222
Hoegger Farms www.hoeggerfarmyard.com 800-221-4628
A great source for cheese making supplies. I buy my stainless steel milk totes from Hoegger Supply as they have various sizes. I like the 12 quart tote as it hold about 25lb of milk. Perfect to fit in the fridge.