The Rotolactor

Reader Contribution by Sam Moore
1 / 2
2 / 2

June is National Dairy Month so here’s a cow story from the December 15, 1930, issue of Farm Machinery and Equipment magazine.

View of the Rotolactor from the February 1931 issue of Fawcett’s Modern Mechanics and Inventions. (from the author’s collection)

The Last Word in Milking Efficiency
Walker-Gordon Farms of Plainsboro, New Jersey, a subsidiary of the Borden Company, are one of the oldest and largest milk producing farms in the world. The new Rotary Combine Milking System was conceived by Henry W. Jeffers, president of Walker-Gordon, after many years of research, while the milking equipment was developed and installed by the DeLaval Separator Company of New York City. The accompanying diagram, together with the following description, describes how the system operates.

In brief, this new milking system applies the well-known industrial principle of bringing the work to the operator. In this case, the cows are brought to the operators instead of the operators going to the cows.

The new milking system consists of a revolving platform upon which are placed 50 stanchions. The platform revolves slowly, completing a revolution in 12-1/2 minutes.

The platform is housed in a beautiful new building which not only contains the milking system but a complete set of offices and laboratories. The interior of the building is beautifully tiled and in the center of the platform is a large glassed-in observation room, where visitors may observe the milking operation.
At the Walker-Gordon farm more than 1500 cows are maintained in individual barns of 100 each. The barns are connected by a central covered passageway, which in reality converts all the barns into one. 

The cows are brought to the Rotary Combine Milker and are conducted to the revolving platform through a tiled passageway. As the cow comes to the end of this passageway, she steps onto the revolving platform and one after another does so until all the stanchions are filled.

When a cow begins her ride around the platform, for the first few feet she is washed and cleaned; then another operator cleans and dries the udder, and next to him an operator draws a sample of the cow’s foremilk. At this point, the teat-cups of the milker are attached to the cow, and for the rest of the ride, until just before the end, she is being milked.

The milking equipment was especially designed and perfected by De Laval, yet the principle is exactly the same as the well-known De Laval Magnetic Milker. Milk is drawn from the cow’s udder without contacting the atmosphere, human hands, or any other sources of contamination, and is deposited into cylindrical glass jars which are securely fastened to steel uprights to the rear and above each cow. As the platform revolves, milking continues and it is possible to see streams of milk running into each jar, making the exact amount of milk each cow produces plainly visible.

Milking is completed as each cow nears the end of a complete revolution and an operator removes the teat-cups. The milked cow walks off the platform through a passageway down through the center of the building and then back to her individual stanchion in one of the outer barns.

As the freshly milked cow is leaving the platform, her milk is released from the glass jar into an automatic weighing device, after which it is drawn through sanitary pipes into the bottling room.

Meanwhile, the platform keeps on turning and there is always a cow waiting to take the place of the one who just left. Milking is a continuous process as a steady stream of cows walk onto the platform and, after a brief ride, each is completely milked and then walks off. Every 12-1/2 minutes, the platform completes one revolution and 50 cows have been milked.

After being removed from a cow, the teat cups of the milking machine are attached to a hook on an extended arm. As the platform revolves, the arm rides on a track which carries the teat cups into a trough of cool water which is sucked through the cups and lines into the glass jar. When the jar is filled, the arm rises on the track and lifts the teat cups out of the water, while the glass jar is emptied of its cool water. The track descends again and the teat cups are dunked into hot water where they are thoroughly cleaned and sterilized and the jar is filled with hot water. Moving on, the hot water is released and the teat cups are again dipped into cool water so they can be placed on the next cow.

This method of washing is unquestionably the most sanitary method that could possibly be devised. The cool water entering the machine first, completely rinses all parts of the milker. Were hot water to be applied without this cool rinse, certain parts of the milk would be coagulated and cooked to the part with which they came in contact. After all the milk is completely removed by the cool water, hot water is applied, which completes the cleaning and sterilization process. This method of cleaning is continuous and there is never an opportunity for any foreign substance to lodge in the milking apparatus.

Of course, a mechanized milking parlor such as this was within the reach of only a big corporate farm back in 1930, and it still required a large number of operators. Most modern dairy farmers have a much more automated set up and, although they bragged about the sanitation of the Rotary Combine Milking System, today’s operations are cleaner and require a lot less manpower.

The rotating milking platform was later named the Rotolactor and was featured in Borden’s large display building at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The fair was also where Elsie the Cow was introduced to the public, but I told that story in a Let’s Talk Rusty Iron column in the June, 2004 issue of Farm Collector magazine.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment