Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Farm Memories #5...Dairy Farming in the 1950's...

Once again, I have the privilege to share with you a story from a guest father-in-law Lloyd!

He writes about what it was like to milk cows in the 1950' particular how the milk was stored and transported to the dairy.  Enjoy!


My father remodeled our barn in the early 50's, taking out the old wooden stalls and replacing them with metal stalls and all new concrete.  We had four short rows, with nine stalls in each row. (which we still have today)

Milking was done with Surge milkers...

These milkers had vacuum pulsators.  We could run three milkers.  When the electricity would go off, we would run the milkers with the tractor. (just like now, when the power goes off, we run our generator with a tractor)  This sure beat milking by hand!  My Mother was far better at hand milking than I was!

From the Surge milker, the milk was dumped into a bucket.  We then dumped the milk through a strainer, which sat on top of a milk can...

When finished, we would roll the cans to the milk house.  We cooled the milk by hoisting the cans into a cooler tank that was filled with water at 38 degrees.  Sometimes Dad would drop a couple of watermelons in too...a good summertime treat!  Those cans full of milk were heavy, so Dad rigged up a system where we could maneuver them into the tank ourselves, if he wasn't around to lift them for us.

After the morning milking was finished, we would load all the cans into our pickup truck and head for Lancaster city, where the Penn Dairy receiving plant was located.  

Dad would back the truck up to a conveyor.  The cans all had our farm identification number painted on them.  As the cans went up the conveyor, there was a gentleman who would knock the lid off each can and smell the milk.  It the milk didn't smell right, he would reject it and send it back to us. It was then fed to the calves, cats or chickens, or thrown away.  This didn't happen often!

After the milk was approved, it was dumped into a big tank, our milk cans were washed and loaded back up onto our truck, and home we went.  I always enjoyed this trip to the dairy.

Some years later, we put in a bulk tank on our farm.  This was quite a change!  We then put in a dumping station.  This is where the milk was dumped from each milker into a holding tank in the cow stable, and then pumped from there into the bulk tank by a glass line.  Our first tank was a 400 gallon Mojonnier Brothers bulk tank.  The milk truck came every day to the farm to pick up the milk.  

Eventually we put in a pipeline milking system, and the milk now goes directly from the cow to the milk tank without us having to lift the weight of the milk.  Who knows what changes are next?

I've included a few pictures of the bulk tank.  The first picture is of the original 400 gallon Mojonnier tank that Lloyd wrote about...

In 1995, Jim and I decided to put in a larger tank, to save on hauling charges. We are charged each time the milk truck picks up our milk, and by putting in this 900 gallon Mueller tank, we were able to have the milk truck come every other day, cutting our hauling charges in half.  The "new" tank soon paid for itself.

We bulk headed the tank, which means that rather than building a larger milk house, part of the tank remains outside, with the wall built around it.  The tank is well insulated, and the milk inside remains at a safe temperature, regardless of the weather.  The old tank was removed and the new one put in place between morning and evening milkings...

Project complete...

I hope you enjoyed the farm memories.  I love it when someone else does the writing for me!

Thanks Lloyd!


  1. Oh, my, how I wish my uncle were still alive to talk about his milking experiences in the 50's. I enjoyed this post so very much!

  2. Great story. Thanks for sharing. Tough, tough farmers in those early days and their stories will help us as hard times come to all.

  3. Oh thank you so much Lloyd I truly enjoyed the walk down memory lane with you.
    I remember milking with the same milker in the top photo we still have it here. I never want to go back there:)
    We do not milk now and I must say I truly enjoyed your recollections.
    I love the bulk tank does not fit idea:) Thanks again Lloyd.
    Great scoop on a story Alica B

  4. Speaking as a retired dairywoman, I enjoyed this one! We had room for our larger tank (800 gallon) when we changed over but it had a narrow path around it. I still miss milking but know we made the right decision back in 2004 when we retired.

  5. thanks for the story! i guess we are more "old fashioned" in our milking. we milk by hand. my husband said when we have 3 milk cows we'll get the milkers, and milk in the pail with that, like the sugre kind! maybe one day we'll be blessed with a bigger dairy, of 12-15 cows, but for now i love our 2 that we have!! loved this post!

  6. I do love hearing about the farming back then! Very informative.

  7. Very nice I love reading about this. Do you know that the land I live on now was a dairy? I remember those milkers and we always had those cans around here. I think my grandparents bought this in 1962 so that is pretty close to that time.
    I think things must be lots easier in a way. I do remember milking by hand when I was 3 or 4 to help my grandparents. My grandparents had a old hand cream separator. When I was in high school my Mom sold butter, buttermilk, and whole milk out of our house. I would get home from school and crank her daisy churn. :) She had a ton of old butter molds. I need to track all of this down. I really enjoyed this Alica.

  8. Great stories! I grew up on a dairy in the 50s and 60s. You have encouraged me to write a post on my blog about some of those memories. Ya know, you can take the boy off the farm but you can't take the farmer out of the boy!

  9. Great post, thanks Lloyd! It's amazing all the changes over the years! :)

  10. I remember my husband hauling the milk cans to the dairy when I first met him. We now a 1200 gallon Muller tank.
    I enjoyed this trip down memory Lane.

  11. It is amazing how technology has changed things. Thanks for the story. I love hearing how things used to be.

  12. Love this!! It's so fun to see the difference in what they used to to do what they do today!

  13. pop by my blog...something is waiting for you!!

  14. My maternal grandfather had a small herd and a surge milker. That really takes me back!

  15. My dad switched from cans to the bulk tank to keep a Grade A rating.
    He used the Weyco system. He dump the milk from the Surge milk machine/pail
    to the Weyco. Milk would conveyed by vacuum through a plastic hose. As he got closer to the milk house end of the barn the hose would be wound back up around the Weyco. My dad would wash all the stainless milk equipment. That would dry his
    hands and put painful cracks in his skin. My job starting as a 5 year old was to wash the cows' udders off with a clean rag. I also fed calves milk replacer and the cows I fed corn silage, ground feed of corn and oats, and then baled hay which I'd kick down from the mows via a chute then have to drag the bales along the mangers.
    I loved the farm. Now years later at 58 I am building my own starting with a Jersey.
    In my opinion the Jersey milk is superior to the Holstein milk that my dad produced, no disrespect intended. The cream is tastier and thicker. The Jersey is sassier but not so big as to make it difficult to handle. I milk by hand. We make yogurt, cheese,
    ice cream and whip cream. Our old farm was in DeForest, Wisconsin. I am now in Shingle Springs, Calif.
    Ken Zeier

    1. I had to chuckle at your comment about Jersey's being sassier than Holsteins! I can identify! We breed our first calf heifers to Jerseys for an easy calving, and the personalities of those calves is definitely different than our holsteins. We had one little Jersey cross that milked like crazy, ate like crazy, and bawled like crazy when she didn't get what she wanted. :) I hope your venture goes well!


I enjoy hearing what you have to say! Thanks for your comments!