Why portable milkers can ease stress at calving

Why portable milkers can ease stress at calving- written by Shirley Macmillan and published in Farmers Weekly. 12/04/2024

© George Morgan© George Morgan

Using a portable milking machine in the calving pen is the easiest and fastest way to harvest a cow’s first colostrum and avoid having to move a newly calved cow.

“Cows are often a bit unsteady on their legs after calving – and they might have nerve damage or borderline milk fever – so this reduces the risk of them slipping on concrete,” says vet Graham Shepherd, the founder of G Shepherd Animal Health.

“You could run a cluster on a vacuum line from the parlour through to a next-door calving pen, but you would have to start up the whole parlour just to milk one cow – potentially in the middle of the night.”

Time and quality

Harvesting colostrum as soon as possible after calving is important, as this is when the antibody content is highest.

Graham cites US research by Sandra Godden (2019), which shows that waiting 12 hours after calving until the first milking causes immunoglobulin (IgG) levels to fall by 36%.

“If you don’t harvest colostrum until the next parlour milking, you lose the quality.

“Plus, the calf’s ability to absorb immunoglobulins falls at 5% an hour, so if it doesn’t suckle or has to wait for its first feed, it will be worse off, as that drink will be lower in IgG and also less absorbed,” he explains.

Small portable milker

Graham Shepherd’s Mini Milker © Graham Shepherd

Portable milkers (mostly made in Turkey) have been around for a decade and range in cost from £1,100 to £2,600 including VAT.


Graham’s “Mini Milker” model is bought by smallholders and people milking goats in the field, as well as beef suckler herds and large dairy units.

The machine runs off a standard 230V supply, and its two large wheels and a third, braked wheel make it easy to move to the cow.

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