Does Milking Cows Hurt Them? (What Milking Feels Like)

Dairy cows need to be milked regularly to avoid an uncomfortable pressure from building up in their udders, but have you ever wondered if it hurts the cow being milked every day?

The good news is, modern milking machines are designed to simulate the motion of a suckling calf, so apart from some rare circumstances, milking is usually not painful at all for cows. 

In this article, we’re going to learn what milking feels like for cows and whether or not it hurts them, what would happen if you didn’t milk a cow, and we’ll also look at some rare circumstances which might make milking uncomfortable for cows.

There are many ethical questions around dairy farming in general, and it’s up to each person to look at the evidnce and make up their own minds about it.

Does Milking Cows Hurt Them

One thing we can say for sure is that the physical process of milking a cow on its own is not cruel. Milking does not hurt the cows, they find it a relief to get rid of the excess milk in their udders, and farmers make sure milking parlors are extremely comfortable for cows, to maximize their milk production.

Does Milking Hurt for Cows?

Milking does not hurt a cow any more than the natural suckling of her calf would. This is because modern milking machines are specifically designed to emulate the natural process.

Modern dairy cows product much more milk than they could ever feed to a calf in the wild, so they need to be milked daily to avoid a painful pressure buildup in their udders.

Milking doesn’t hurt for cows, instead it feels relieving for them.

Although milking is generally painless for cows, there are a few common illnesses which make it uncomfortable for a cow to be milked.

Illnesses like mastitis, infection of the udder, or a blocked teat can all cause milking to be a painful ordeal for cows.

In situations like this where mechanical milking might be too sore for the cow, the farmer often takes them aside and milks them by hand, which can be gentler on them.

Related Article: When To Start Milking A Cow After Calving?

Mechanical Milking

Most modern dairy farms use mechanical milking machines to milk their cows. These machines are so advanced that they can check on a cow’s temperature, test the quality of the milk, and automatically detect when the cow is out of milk.

Mechanical milking machines are specifically designed to emulate the exact process of a suckling calf in order to make the process as hassle-free as possible for the cow, and to maximize milk production for the farmer.

Mechcnical milking machines don’t hurt cows, and on some farms you will even see cows lining up outside the milking parlor waiting to be milked.

Most mechanical milking machines can be finely tuned to be gentler with certain cows who are sensitive to milking.

Read more: Do Cows Enjoy Being Milked?

Hand Milking

Hand milking-or manual milking-is gentler than machine milking and does not hurt cows, although it can be more stressful if the cow isn’t socialized with the farmer already. Luckily, cows can form strong bonds with humans and most of the time cows don’t mind being milked.

In cows with painful mastitis, the National Animal Disease Information Service in the UK recommends hand milking for a period of three days after administering antibiotics to treat the mastitis.

Do Cows Need to be Milked?

Modern dairy cows need to be milked every day to prevent a dangerous buildup of pressure in their udders. Without sufficient milking, milk builds up inside the udders and can cause infection and other illnesses.

Dairy cows are usually milked for between five and seven minutes, two or three times per day.

Are Cows’ Udders Sensitive?

Milking is good for dairy cows, because it helps prevent the cow developing serious illnesses like mastitis or infected udders, which can occur when a cow doesn’t get milked for too long.

However, cow’ udders are extremely sensitive. Cows’ udders have thousands of sensitive nerve endings just beneath the skin, which help the cow feel when her calf is trying to feed, so she can release her milk.

Read More: Do Male Cows have Udders?

Do Cows Enjoy Being Milked?

Failure to milk a dairy cow can lead to the cow being hurt. When a cow is not milked they can develop a painful pressure buildup in their udders, which can lead to further painful and dangerous illnesses including mastitis and udder infections.

Cows don’t necessarily enjoy being milked, but it’s definitely a relief for them. Modern dairy cows can produce up to 28 litres of milk every day, and that production doesn’t stop if the cow isn’t milked.

What Does Milking Feel Like for a Cow?

Milking feels the same to a cow as a calf suckling. Milking machines have been specially designed to mimic the suckling action of a calf and extract milk.

Modern milking machines can monitor milk flow rate and alter the suction to make sure the cow is milked at a comfortable rate.

If you’re milking a cow and they are uncomfortable, every dairy farmer knows that cows are not shy in letting you know when they don’t want to do something.

Cows will kick their hind legs, tip over buckets, move their head from side to size, or even refuse to enter the milking parlor in the first place if they don’t want to be milked.

When farmers notice this type of behavior, it’s usually an indication that the cow is suffering from some type of injury or illness. The most common reason a cow will refuse to be milked is if they are suffering from mastitis.

Farmers treat udder problems very seriously, since any infection means the milk can not be used, to prevent any blood or pus from entering the food supply.


To sum up, milking does not hurt cows, except for the rare circumstance where a cow has an existing injury to her udder.

Both mechanical and manual milking are perfectly harmless for cows, however manual milking is more gentle and is often used in favor of mechanical milking when a cow has an injury.

Milking is a relief for cows and is necessary to keep them healthy.

Without milking, milk would continue to build up inside the cow’s udder but with no way for it to be released, since dairy calves do not feed naturally. This can lead to dangerous illnesses like mastitis and udder infection.

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