The Revolution of the Milking Machine

The Revolution of the Milking Machine

The ease with which you can open your fridge and grab a container of milk is a luxury most of us take for granted. How that milk gets from the cow to the fridge in not something that crosses our minds very often.

It was just over 100 years ago, shortly after World Word I, that major changes began to change the country, and the dairy industry.

More people were leaving the farm and moving to cities or towns. Those people needed milk since they could no longer get it from their family cow. Dairy farms became larger, moving from 1-5 cows to 10-20 cows. With bigger herds, farmers needed a more efficient and faster way to milk their cows. Prior to the 1920s, most milking was done by hand or by using rudimentary milking machine. The first milking machines were uncomfortable for cows and lacked sanitation controls, resulting in poorer quality milk.

In 1922, the Surge Bucket Milker was born. The lore behind the invention is that Herbert McCornack used a large roasting pan from his family kitchen as the base to design the new milking machine. The Surge milker was hung under the cow suspended on a steel spring rod that was attached to a leather surcingle strapped over the cow’s back. The vacuum pulsator used in the machine, combined with the steel spring rod, closely emulated the movement of a calf suckling on the cow’s teats.

The machine being able to emulate the calf’s natural suckling changed the course of the dairy industry. What was once a revolutionary innovation quickly became the standard. As electricity spread to all corners of rural areas, milking machines became even more efficient and dairy herds were able to grow larger. At the same time, cooling, refrigeration and sanitation of milk became regulated and monitored, ensuring the safety and high-quality of the milk delivered to customers.

The Surge Bucket Milker set into motion a revolutionary shift in the dairy industry. Farms that once had just a family cow in the backyard could now supply milk to a larger population with large dairy herds.

Milking technology has continued to change and grow, with the latest revolution being robotic milkers. But it all started with a roasting pan, an idea and the wish to make milk safer and more easily available for families. Thank goodness for that Sunday dinner (which was served with fresh milk, of course!)


Chris Hardie milks a photo for all it’s worth

History of the Surge Bucket Milker