In the course of the years machine milking has become an integral part of dairying. In fact, efficient dairy farming without the use of milking machines is unthinkable.
The first milking machine was introduced by the Agricultural Experiment Station at Rehovot (today’s Volcani Center for Agricultural Research) in 1935. It was a portable Alfa-Laval bucket-type machine, the same to be used a couple of years later by the dairy farm of Kibbuts Qiryat Anavim, in the foot-hills of Jerusalem, where purebred Dutch cattle were kept at that time.
Due to the fact that dairymen and especially dairywomen felt that machine milking was contrary to the well-feeling of cows and milkers alike and detrimental to udder health and production, very soon machine milking was abandoned for almost a decade.
During World War II because of the scarcity of labor, the renewed introduction of machine milking was again contemplated and, after some hesitant attempts, more farms followed suit.
Milking relatively large herds, with portable bucket-type machines, was rather tedious and very soon the first milking parlors with elevated platforms were constructed. Some were tandem and others of the chute (walk-through) type, but finally, herringbones became the generally preferred type in large herds as well as in small family farms, ranging from 2×3 points to 2×9 points, all equipped with recorder jars.
From the beginning right through to the early seventies, almost exclusively Alfa-Lava and DeLaval equipment was used for milking cows in Israel. For reasons of streamlining the introduction of machine milking and at the same time minimizing the cost of keeping a ready supply of spare parts, the idea of limiting the number of manufacturers was generally accepted.
However, with the evolution of automation in dairying in other countries, and the rather impressive development of dairy farming in this country, the introduction of other well-known milking machine companies was imminent. Within a relatively short time, the market was flooded with equipment from different sources namely Alfa Laval, Fullwood, BouMatic, Westfalia, Surge as well as two new Israeli companies, S.A.E. Afikim, S.C.R. Engineering.
Back flushing of milking clusters, developed in the early sixties, became standard equipment on most farms.
With the advent of feeding complete rations to dairy cattle, the feeding of concentrates during milking was abandoned.
With increasing herd size, and the cost of labor and its limited availability, the need for larger and more efficient milking facilities became the highlight of the seventies. The larger Kibbutz dairy farms started to build herringbones with 2×14 and even 2×16 points, all fully equipped with C. I. P. installations, instant cooling and big milk tanks.
Also during this period, and with the aim of increasing the capacity and efficiency of milking still further, a few 28 point rotary herringbones were installed, However, the rather modest increase in capacity, and the increased cost of maintenance as compared to stationary herringbones, did not justify the large investment involved and the building of rotaries came to a temporary stop between the mid-eighties until the end of the nineties.
Crowding gates, either mechanical or electrified, were used already in most milking parlors and had been perfected. Waiting yards were equipped with a system of sprinklers for washing udders before milking. During the hot summer months most waiting yards operate overhead showers, with or without intermittent forced ventilation in order to cool cows before entering the milking parlor. Hydraulically controlled lateral exits were installed in many milking parlors, with the aim to speed-up cows’ exiting after milking.
The continuing quest for higher milking capacity cows/man/hour brought about the construction of three-sided (trigon) and four-sided (polygon) milking parlors. But be it the lack of a meticulously followed milking routine or the necessarily longer and more intricate alleys, especially with the trigon again, the increased milking capacity did not materialize as calculated and expected, while at the same time the investment required was considerably higher than with ordinary herring-bones.
Since the increased cows/man/hour originated essentially from a larger number of milking units operated by a very small crew (1- 2 milkers), the need was felt for a higher degree of automation and a general simplification of the milking routine.
Semi-automatic milking machines became common and permitted one milker to operate a greater number of units. Two-level vacuum (high during milk flow, then low until manual take-off) gradually gave way to automatic cluster removal. Automatic back-flushing of clusters became an integrated feature of milking equipment, as well as the automatised C.I.P. cycle after milking.
As a rule, low-line systems are replacing recorder jars in all new installations, except in some of the smaller terms with high line swingover parlors.
Today all cows in Israel are milked in milking parlors with more than 85% of the cows milked with electronic milk meters.
The first milking robot was installed in Israel in 1999 but the Israeli dairy farmer did not adjust to this technology the numbers are now declining with only 50 milking robots on 35 family farms.
More than 90% of cows are on DHI and in order to ascertain the proper functioning of the meters, irrespective of their make, the central laboratory for milk recording checks meters once yearly.
There is a levy on all milk marketed in Israel used to fund the Israel Dairy Board, 15% the budget is used to fund the National Service for Udder Health and Milk Quality, founded in 1997 to eradicate Staph Aureus in Israeli herds, accomplished with great success. Today less than 0.01% of cows cultured (at the cost of a sterile test tube) are infected with Staph Aureus.
By virtue of this levy, at no extra cost, Israeli dairy farmers, are able to take full advantage of the services provided by milking management advisers for, milking parlor and milking equipment analysis (static and dynamic testing), advice on milking parlor construction, milking machine specifications, professional advice on milking equipment, teat dips and detergents as well as milk parlor trouble shooting.
Today the vast majority of farms milk with equipment from the Israeli companies, Afimilk and S.C.R. , recognized world leaders in computerized dairy management.
For this reason computerized monitoring is common in nearly all Israeli dairy herds, and used by the farm advisers (among other parameters – health, breeding etc) to monitor and assess parlor performance, and for recommending improvements of the milking routine.