When we’re babies, milk makes up most of our daily diet. And although we drink much less of it when we move on to solid foods, it still works its way into much of our everyday food regimen. It’s the base of sauces, and it also softens our baked goods. Plus, it plays an all-important role in ice cream. But the source of this all-important ingredient— the dairy farm— often goes underappreciated.
But given the number of dairy farms scattered across Pulaski County, it’s worth it to look into how these farms work. This includes understanding the most common equipment used in dairy farms.
The heart of the dairy farm is its cows. The idyllic packaging on dairy products would suggest that farmers milk cows with nothing more than their bare hands, but there is a lot more equipment used in dairy farms than the average person would imagine.
Milking machines attach to the teats of a cow’s udder to suck the milk out. Though this sounds painful, it’s designed to mimic the feeling of a calf’s mouth, so it seems natural to the cow. A milking machine also sanitizes the udder during every use for maximum hygiene.
Milking Parlor Pens
Having to attach milkers to hundreds or thousands of cows is a huge job, so having automated pens is essential for a viable farm. There are four types of dairy pens:
- Rotary pens: Place cows side by side on a round, rotating platform that allows farmers to attach milkers while standing in the same spot.
- Tandem pens: Organize cows facing front to back with an opening to the side, allowing the farmer to reach the udder.
- Herringbone pens: Put cows side by side at a 45-degree angle.
- Parallel parlor: Cows stand side by side and get milked simultaneously from behind.
Before milk gets shipped to consumers, it goes through several processes to make it safe for human consumption. And these processes require a few more pieces of equipment.
Pasteurization is the process of heating raw milk to kill bacteria. Pasteurization machines use a process called flash pasteurization. Machines heat the milk to 161 degrees Fahrenheit very quickly—only for about 15 seconds. Afterward, it cools the milk to 39 degrees.
To keep milk from separating into cream and liquid, farmers must put milk through a process called homogenization. Homogenizing machines are designed with a high-powered blender called an atomizer that takes the fat globules from the cream and blends them into the liquid. This makes the milk smooth and creamy.
We all know that leaving a gallon of milk on a counter in a warm room will lead to spoiled milk. Because of that, farmers have storage vessels designed to meet certain standards. These devices must keep milk colder than 45 degrees Fahrenheit while keeping contaminants out.