This week in 1909: The mechanical milker

Reporting from Gloucestershire on the Royal Agricultural Society’s show, The Engineer described what it thought was a fundamental breakthrough in the design of cow milking machines.

‘Milking machines have not been adopted to a real extent for several reasons,’ claimed the magazine. ‘Those hitherto seen require a considerable capital outlay for the necessary pumping apparatus and do not come within the reach of most dairy farmers… and cases of injury to animals have been known owing to the application of the vacuum.’

This ‘altogether new invention’, continued the article, ‘has avoided all mechanism which depends for its operation on pneumatic principles’, and is entirely mechanical. ‘It can be worked either by hand or power and can, if necessary, be used in the open field.’

The article goes on to describe the operation of the system: ‘the machine consists of three parts. Namely, the driving gear composed of a central spur wheel into which a number of pinions — usually five to milk this number of animals at once — are adapted to mesh.

‘These pinions are connected to the milking machine — which is held suspended beneath the cow by straps — by means of flexible shafts, and any one or all of the pinions can be thrown in or out of gear when desired by moving small knobs,’ continued the article.

‘The milk flows straight into a pail, courtesy of four pairs of rubber pads which are caused to slide up and down and replicate the action of the thumb and finger action of a human milker.’

Jon Excell