How To Stop a Cow From Holding Up Milk

How To Stop a Cow From Holding Up Milk

How to stop a Cow from holding up milk.

Milk-sharing with a calf is a wonderful arrangement.  You only have to milk once a day, your cow raises your beef for you, but there is one drawback.  Someone is usually drinking all your butter.

If you would like your butter back – I may have the solution.

Large dairy’s have very fancy equipment they use to extract milk from their sweet, bovine ladies.  They can milk multiple cows at once sending all the milk to a “bulk tank.”  The milk from many cows (sometimes a hundred or more) will go to the bulk tank.  There are times when they do not want the milk from a certain cow to hit the bulk tank.  There are also times when they only want some of the milk from a certain cow to go to the bulk tank.

An example of this would be if a cow is otherwise healthy, but has an injury to one quarter. They may want the milk from the 3 healthy quarters to go to the bulk tank, but not the milk from the recovering one.

In these cases, these high-tech dairies with their fancy equipment can ‘divert’ the milk from 1 or 2 quarters to go to a separate tank.

I love my electric milk pump, but it can not do this.  This past week we wanted to collect milk from 3 of Faith’s (my cow) quarters, but not the 4th.   With a little creativity, and a hungry calf, you won’t believe what we did.


This is an inflation plug.  It is super handy to have around.

In order for the milk pump to create suction, all 4 inflations (the inside liner of the teat cups) must be “plugged” so the pump has resistance to suck against.  If you plug 3 cups but left the 4th open – you would not have any suction.   All 4 openings must be blocked (air-tight).


This inflation plug “plugs” the teat cup perfectly.

Before inflation plugs entered my life, I did this with a plastic bag and a rubber band.   I doubled the plastic bag over the end of the teat cup & tightly wrapped a rubber band around the whole thing.  It made an airtight seal.    This worked well for about 45 seconds. Then, the plastic bag popped from the power of the suction.   When it popped I thought I had been shot.

So, I spent $7 on this inflation plug & there is no more gunfire in the milk barn.


Insert the plug into the teat cup that you won’t be using.


I have 3 teat cups ready to go on to Faith’s udder.  Yes, I wear cammo.


I turn on my pump & put the 3 teat cups onto Faith’s udder.  I am leaving the  (plugged) 4th one off.  If you look closely you can see what’s happening on the other side.

This cute guy has no choice but to empty the 4th teat.  The other 3 are currently out of service.


I get the milk from 3 teats & Crumple (the calf) empties the 4th one for me.



We are not the first folks to use this concept.  Many homesteaders will milk 3 quarters & turn the cow out with the calf so it can empty the last one.  I did not want to do this because of our reoccurring battles with mastitis.

When a cow is stimulated (with the milk pump) to “let down” her milk she “lets down” in all 4 quarters.  If we do not milk one quarter and leave the milk sitting in it (even for just a few minutes) could be a recipe for disaster.   We wanted to find a way to get all 4 quarters milked at the same time, but only keep the milk from 3 quarters.

Thankfully, we have a cooperative calf, and cow.

An added, unexpected BONUS we found from this arrangement was no holding-up of milk.

If a mama cow knows she has a calf waiting in the field, she may will “hold up” her milk.  No matter how huge and powerful your hands or your milk pump may be – if she is holding up for the calf, it can be nearly impossible to get all the milk out.  This is annoying because what usually gets “held up” is all that wonderful cream. Homesteaders often complain about their “cream line” when a calf is with the cow.

In addition to losing cream, when a cow hold’s up milk it can also be a recipe for mastitis.  Holding up milk can be frustrating and there is very little you can do about it.


Until now!  When we let Crumple milk along side us, Faith does not withhold milk.  I guess she knows he is there & she let’s it all down.


And my cream line is back.

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Happy Milking!


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