Milking Cows: 1911 and 2011

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Thursday, October 20, 1911:Got out of school early this afternoon. I gathered some walnuts after I got home. Mollie gave me a kick in the back while milking another cow this evening. I’ve named Ruth’s twin calves, one Brutus and the other Caesar, but I can’t tell which is which.

1911: Probability of being kicked = high (photo source: Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine, December 15, 1911)
2011: Robot milker--Probability of being kicked = almost zero

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Ouch! It sounds like the kick hurt. Grandma’s cow Mollie had her first calf in August. And, Grandma had been pleased with how well Mollie adjusted to being milked, For example on September 27 she wrote:

“Was in doubts and fears as to how Mollie would act when I commenced to milk her. Pop milked her last night, but I had to do it after that, so I got up early this morning, resolving to come off conquering and I did. Hurrah. She didn’t kick.”

But apparently something upset Mollie while Grandma was milking the next cow—and she gave Grandma a kick.

There have been huge changes in how cows are milked over the last hundred years. In 1911 most farmers had just a few cows that were milked by hand. Today most cows are milked by machines in milking parlors (and some are even milked by robots.)

4 thoughts on “Milking Cows: 1911 and 2011

    1. Maybe someone with more experience than me will jump in–but my memory from when I was a child was that it was important to be firm about what the cow was supposed to do, and then to have a little patience. Young cows soon learned how to stand still and looked forward to being milked.

      My memory is that if a cow was likely to kick that my father would press his head into the her side where the leg muscle attached to the body while he milked her. This would make it difficult for the cow to kick.

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