How cows make milk

Have you ever wondered how cows make milk?

Check out our info to find out how they turn their food into our everyday staple. For a closer look, click the image below.

how cows make milk statistics

Cows can produce between 20-50 litres of milk a day.
That’s a lot of milk, but how do they use their four stomach components to make our everyday favourites?

The four stomachs of a cow


The rumen: The cow half -chews its feed before swallowing it into her first stomach. This can hold about 100 litres of chewed feed mixed with water. The Rumen contains billions of micro bacteria that turn the feed into substances the cow can use as nutrients. Some of these nutrients are absorbed from the Rumen into the Liver and some pass it on to other stomachs for digestion.


The reticulum: The feed then enters the Reticulum, where it’s softened and made into small wads called cuds. Each cud then returns to the cow’s mouth and is chewed 40 to 60 times for around one minute.


The Omasum: When the cud has been chewed enough, it is swallowed back to the Retculum and can pass into the Omasum.


The abomasum: The cud then enters the fourth stomach and is finally digested. The digested feed passes through the small intestine, where all the essential nutrients the cow needs to stay healthy and strong are absorbed.

milking time

Nutrients from the cows feed are turned into milk by four mammary glands in the udder. The milk is released from the udder through the teat.

Dairy shed cow

How a cow is milked depends on the type of milking system the farmer has. The most common is where the farmer walks the cow into the milking parlour from the dairy shed.

Up to 30 cows can line up down one side of the milking parlour, with each cow being milked at the same time.

The aim for any farmer is to get the cow in and out of the parlour as quickly as possible so she can get back to the shed to eat her food, lie down and relax.

All of our farmers’ cows have access to sheltered accommodation.

We have some farms where cows live in their sheds all year round while others allow their cows to graze in the spring/summer months but will then bring them indoors during winter.

Udderly marvellous

Dairy cows are usually milked twice a day, in specially designed milking parlours.

A cow usually has four teats on her udder, though some do have more.

When a calf or milking machine sucks on the cow’s teat it releases the muscle holding in the milk in, so it can flow.

When there’s no suction the muscle contracts, stopping the flow – when the cow isn’t being milked.

Find out more about our healthy cows and happy farmers.


Being milked is part of the cows daily routine.

A lot of them enjoy it because they are being fed a tasty cow cake which they don’t get when they are in the dairy shed.

The cow cake helps give cows energy, which helps to keep them healthy during milk production and ensures they receive the nutrients needed to produce high-quality milk.


Press play

It’s important the cows are kept happy and relaxed to help them produce milk.

Sometimes the farmer even plays them soothing music to help them relax.

Have a look at 10 more things you never knew about milk.

Farmer details playing radio 2 to their cows while being milked.


Find out about how we pay our farmers a fair price for their milk.