The milking process is the collection of tasks specifically devoted to extracting milk from an animal (rather than the broader field of dairy animal husbandry).

This process may be broken down into several sub-tasks: collecting animals before milking, routing animals into the parlour, inspection and cleaning of teats, attachment of milking equipment to teats, and often massaging the back of the udder to relieve any held back milk, extraction of milk, Milk Processing Plant,  Liquid Milk Processing Plant, removal of milking equipment, routing of animals out of the parlour.

Maintaining milk yield during the lactation period (approximately 300 days) requires consistent milking intervals, usually twice daily and with maximum time spacing between milkings.

In fact all activities must be scheduled around the milking process on the dairy farm. Such a milking routine imposes restrictions on time management and personal life of an individual farmer, as the farmer is committed to milking in the early morning and in the evening for seven days a week regardless of personal health, family responsibilities or social schedule. This time restriction is exacerbated for lone farmers and farm families if extra labour cannot easily or economically be obtained, and is a factor in the decline in small-scale dairy farming.

Techniques such as once-a-day milking and voluntary milking (see below) have been investigated to reduce these time constraints.

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  • Elimination of labour– The farmer is freed from the milking process and associated rigid schedule, and labour is devoted to supervision of animals, feeding, etc.
  • Milking consistency– The milking process is consistent for every cow and every visit, and is not influenced by different persons milking the cows. The four separate milking cups are removed individually, meaning that an empty quarter does not stay attached while the other three are finishing, resulting in less threat of injury. The newest models of automatic milkers can vary the pulsation rate and vacuum level based on milk flow from each quarter.
  • Increased milking frequency– Milking frequency may increase to three times per day, however typically 2.5 times per day is achieved. This may result in less stress on the udder and increased comfort for the cow, as on average less milk is stored. Higher frequency milking increases milk yield per cow, however much of this increase is water rather than solids.
  • Perceived lower stress environment– There is a perception that elective milking schedules reduce cow stress.
  • Herd management– The use of computer control allows greater scope for data collection. Such data allows the farmer to improve management through analysis of trends in the herd, for example response of milk production to changes in feedstuffs. Individual cow histories may also be examined, and alerts set to warn the farmer of unusual changes indicating illness or injury. Information gathering provides added value for AMS, however correct interpretation and use of such information is highly dependent on the skills of the user or the accuracy of computer algorithms to create attention reports.