Country Living Series

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Product review: the EZ Milker

A few years ago, our neighbors got a beautiful Jersey cow. Since she was lactating but didn't have a calf on her, they were plunged into a strict twice-a-day milking schedule that got a bit overwhelming at times. After a few months they asked if I would be interested in milking twice a week (and keeping the milk) in order to give them a bit of a break.


Since I wasn't milking at the time, I said sure. This was my first introduction to the lovely Jersey breed, whose rich creamy milk is justifiably famous.

Eventually the neighbors got a single-cow portable milking machine. One day I watched as this contraption was strapped on top of the patient cow's back, with straps going around her belly and little suctions that attached to the teats. Turn the machine on and vroom crank crank crank crank -- the cow was miked out in above five minutes under very sanitary conditions. Then they had to unstrap the entire machine, take it into the house, and spend -- I'm not kidding -- about 45 minutes cleaning it.


I vowed then and there that I would never have a milking machine. Such devices are obviously necessary for large commercial dairies, but seemed totally useless for a single cow.

...Unless, of course, your physical health does not permit you to milk a cow. And that, sadly, is the situation far too many people face. Lots of folks would love to get a cow or goat and have their own fresh milk, but the repetitive strong hand motions necessary to milk might be painful or impossible due to arthritis or other conditions.

Under these circumstances, the bulky, noisy, and hard-to-clean portable milking machine might be worth it. But sheesh, wouldn't it be nice to have some sort of compromise?

Now fast forward to last April. I was writing a dairy article for Backwoods Home Magazine, and in the interest of covering all possible scenarios, I interviewed a sheep dairyist. It was a fascinating afternoon since, quite honestly, I had never considered the merits of sheep as dairy animals.


One of the questions that got answered during that afternoon is how -- physically how -- a sheep is milked. The teats are so small that efficiently grasping them must be a trick! (So says a cow milker.) The answer was to use a gizmo called an EZ Milker.


The EZ Milker, it turned out, was the "missing link" between hand milking and a milking machine. It's a hand pump that creates a vacuum that efficiently milks a cow, goat, sheep, horse (yes really), or just about anything else that will stand still long enough for you to grab their udder. Like a milking machine, the EZ Milker keeps the milk very sanitary since it never sees an open bucket.

So anyway, I wrote up the dairy article for Backwoods Home Magazine, and I also put up a blog post on my afternoon with the sheep dairy. Rather to my surprise, the blog post garnered quite a bit of interest among niche-market dairies and got passed around more than I would have thought possible.

Which is how, in July, I received an email from a fellow named Buck Wheeler, the inventor of the EZ Milker. A charming older fellow (whose birthday is today -- Happy Birthday, Buck!), he offered to send me an EZ Milker in exchange for a review.

The milker promptly arrived, and the only difficulty I had in following the directions was to know which parts were which. If you've never seen the components before, it's not clear which is the "bottle connector" and which is the "collection cylinder" and which is the "extractor" and which is the "silicon inserts." It would have been vastly more helpful to have a schematic with the parts clearly labeled, for those (like me) who are "assembly challenged."


However that was my only complaint about the EZ Milker. I have seldom come across a product that so clearly lives up to its claims. At the time I received the milker, I was milking Polly, our young Jersey. She has nice small teats, and once I figured out how to insert the cup over the teat so the proper suction formed, I gave the pump handle a few squeezes and wow! The milk came right out!


The sensation must be reasonably comfortable for the cow because Polly, despite being a novice milker, didn't have any problems with the EZ Milker. It was a strange for me, though, to get milk without the work. I just sat there and held the bottle and let the suction do the work. Once in awhile I gave a few more squeezes to the pump, and then it was good to go for another couple of minutes. It felt odd to milk a cow without the familiar "zing zing zing" of milk streams hitting the bucket.

I quickly realized how useful this gizmo would be for those whose health won't permit them to actively milk an animal. Hand strength simply isn't required.



Nor is cleaning a problem. In fact, the milker was an absolute snap to clean. In contrast to the absurd cleaning requirements for the portable milking machine our neighbors had, all I had to do with the EZ Milker was submerge the various components in hot soapy water, slosh them around, and upend them to dry. For obvious reasons, the pump itself is not washed, just the parts that come in direct contact with the milk.

However if you DO get milk into the pump (which you'll know because your hands will get wet with milk), there is a way to safely clean the pump, outlined in detail here.



Now since I don't have hand-strength problems when milking cows, I continued to milk Polly by hand as the summer progressed. But then something interesting happened.

My beloved older Jersey, Matilda, gave birth to little Amy in mid-September. Because Matilda's udder is poorly attached, it swells and hangs very low after she gives birth. This time it hung so low that Amy couldn't nurse, necessitating an emergency milking of Matilda's colostrum and bottle-feeding the calf.


I tried using the EZ Milker to milk out the colostrum, but Matilda's udder hung so low that I couldn't fit the milker underneath it. Buck Wheeler later said, "I wish you would have called me because the pump is set up as vacuum. It will work sideways very effectively. It does not have to be straight down or under the bag, you could milk her laying down."

Now that's what I call a versatile product!

Despite my ignorance on this strategy, I milked enough colostrum to feed the baby... and this time the EZ Milker kit became a literal life-saver. You see, among its many fine accouterments, there are bottles of various size and, most critical, a rubber nipple just the size for a baby to grasp. I used those bottles exclusively for three weeks until Amy "found the faucet" and got the hang of nursing (which also correlated to when Matilda's udder resumed a less-massive size).



I wish I'd had an EZ Milker when we first got Matilda and were fighting teat scabs as well as a life-threatening case of mastitis. Milking her was a nightmare which gave me a bad case of carpel tunnel that took me months to get over. An EZ Milker would have eliminated that problem.

All in all, I must say this EZ Milker is a phenomenal invention. It opens up the possible of home-grown milk to a whole segment of people whose physical conditions may have previously excluded them from the joys of milking an animal.


The EZ Milker website has lots of info as well as videos on how to use the product. The link called EZ to Use has lots of additional info (as well as video instructionals) on how to use, clean, and care for the milker. There are different kits available depending on what kind of animal you're milking (i.e. horse, cow, goat, sheep, or even more exotic critters like llamas and reindeer). There are also additional accouterments available (extra bottles, replacement parts, etc.) on the website. And Buck Wheeler is a font of information for anyone with questions.

It's always nice when a product lives up to its claims. In this case, the EZ Milker far exceeds its claims and is, I feel, a valuable tool for any homesteader. It may even allow people to become homesteaders who were unable to milk because of health considerations.

The EZ Milker kit comes in at under $200. While that might seem pricey, the quality and usefulness will easily offset the price. And the customer service for all aspects of the product and its various uses is superb.

If I was a person to give a "star rating" to something, I'd have to give five stars to this baby. Over the years I've had readers express regret that they couldn't get a milk animal because of some sort of physical impediment. Can you imagine the whole new world that might open up for these folks?

All in all, I can highly recommend the EZ Milker.

18 comments:

  1. Hi Patrice,
    I can back up everything you said! I have been using an EZMilker on my sheep for 2 years. It has made milking very easy with their small teats. Year 2 the small red diaphram broke, and I needed a replacement. It took about 10 days to get here and by then I had a terrible rash on my forearms from the combo of lanolin, wool and grass hay which I am allergic too! I was SO happy to get my Milker working again you have no idea! Sheep milk is worth the effort in flavor, nutritional value and versitality, but I will never again try to do it long term without the EZMilker! Oh, I have 3 more diaphrams in the box so I don't have to wait on shipping again. Also, you CAN clean the inside out when it does get milk into it. Just submerge and start pumping. The hot soapy water will clean it out, then rinse in mild bleach water(1 tbs per gallon works) and then again in clean water. With the wash and rinse, just submerge and pump until clear. Works great!
    Judy in Idaho

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  2. I find your success with the EZ milker interesting. I have used one and hated it. Found hand milking much easier. I even called the company in case i was doing something wrong. Might consider giving it another try. One problem i do see is that you have to keep changing the collection bottle. For a cow that is pumping out a couple gallons a milking that is an issue to consider. HUMMM....

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    1. Please give me a call, I will try and get you re-loaded !!
      I am sorry you were having problems!

      Buck












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  3. Thanks for posting this. I do have a question, how long does it take to milk out a cow - a Jersey to be specific - using the EZ Milker?

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  4. Hello. Let me clarify my previous question as it is somewhat vague. How long does it take to milk out a Jersey cow that is in heavy lactation - say a couple months after calving? Thanks, and sorry for being so vague earlier.

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  5. Oh the possibilities!!!!! I wish I would have had one when I was milking all of my goats! My hand issues were one of the reasons I didn't get a milk cow. Hhhhhmmmmmmmm......

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  6. I too have seen the EZ Milker but would warn that it can and has caused damage to the teats of cows. The fabulous ladies on the Keeping a Family Cow forum have warned everyone that it is not a milker to be used on a regular basis because the suction is too incredibly high and will cause damage. I just wanted to throw that out there as a caution to consider. AS you know, a family milk cow is a very valuable animal and teat damage can be terrible.

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  7. From what I understand this machine can be very useful for short term use or in a pinch but some very experienced women on Keeping a Family Cow have commented on how damaging it will be for long term use. The constant suction as opposed to a pulsing suction can damage the teats. They have even made such strong remarks as, "steer clear of the UdderlyEZ for your cow's health". I have not used the milker myself so take my comments for what they are worth but these are very experienced cow owner and milkers and have used the machine. Thanks , Abby

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  8. Boy I sure wish we had this back when I was a boy. I never had to milk every day but was stuck with it when ever he had to be away for either morning or night milk times. It was really hard to do when you hadn't built up those muscles. This looks really neat!

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  9. That first machine you showed was an old Surge milker. I milked over 30 head of Holstein, twice a day, using two of those machines. The beauty of the Surge was you didn't have to hand strip, because when the front quarters went dry, those teat cups dropped off and the machine continued to to milk the rear quarters. We'd just rinse the machines after the AM milking and I could clean both machines in less than 10 minutes after the last milking of the day. The milk only comes in contact with the teat cup inflation and the 'bucket'. There's no long hoses as in the old DeLaval and (older) Pine Tree milkers.
    I don't know what all that plastic hose is for, but it looks to me as if they've got the machine set up all wrong. Google surge milk machine and see how it should be used. It was a great machine.

    Ron

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    1. To be fair, this probably isn't the type of portable milker our neighbors used. It's been eight years since I saw their machine, and then I only saw it once, so my recollection is vague. When putting up this blog post, I went on eBay and looked over the machines that were for sale, and copied a photo of the one that most closely resembled my memory. I could be TOTALLY wrong.

      - Patrice

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  10. This gave me quite a laugh, as it reminded me of the Medela hand pump I used sometimes when I had my babies! I guess lactation is lactation, right?

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  11. I was always warned against them because they will damage teats because there is no pulsator. Of course I have dairy goats not cows so maybe they are a little tougher.

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    1. As the Inventor and Owner of the Udderly Ez Milker and the new Ultimate Ez Milker I feel that I must clarify some wrongly pre conceived ideas about my product. Having been in the world market place going on 10 years this coming fall and having sold over 20,000 Udderly Ez Milkers, It goes without saying that we would not be here today if the above statement were true. ( over 11,000 of those were sold to goat milkers and some of the original pumps are still in use!!) As with any product it can be used wrongly when not in accordance with the video's and all the instructions that are sent with each UEZ milking kit. I grew up milking cows on a very large ranch in North Dakota, I have personally used and tested all of my products before they ever went into the market place as well as placing them in Cow, Goat and Sheep Dairy's.
      I have given my cell phone to thousands of clients to call me if they need any help or if we need to fix something.
      I invite anyone to go on my you tube site and check out more video's of all of our products. www.youtube.com/udderlyez1 ...Besides our web site, we are on facebook and twitter also. I have tried to help educate and instruct the many people that are just getting into the business of learning how to help themselves. If anyone needs any help please call or e-mail me directly buckwheeler@live.com
      Another site that may help many of you is www.handmilking.com The Smiths used our UEZ hand milker for many years and after 4 years in R & D are now using the new Ultimate Ez Milker because it milks 2 teats at once and they do this to help supplement their way of life on the Grid in New Mexico.
      Thank You, Buck Wheeler

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  12. I will confirm what anonymous @943 said about the Surge milker. My parents were dairy farmers and began milking with these kind and milk about 25/30 head twice a day. This picture made me giggle as my mind flashed back to many childhood memories. We do hope get a milk cow in the next couple of years and my carpal tunnel (left hand) and broken wrist (didn't heal correctly) on my right will make handmilking difficult. The EZ milker looks great!

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  13. Patrice,
    If you'll give your cow Garlic tablets, the swelling will go down much quicker. I've used it with dairy goats and my dairy cow.

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  14. We purchased and used two Udderly EZ milkers for our milk cow. We bought two thinking we could use them both at the same time and cut down the time it takes to milk. This did work for a couple months before the problems started. We just kept having parts break. The little rubber valves don't last too long and are expensive to replace. Both our handles broke within a short amount of time. These are also expensive to replace. The bottle clip on one broke, so we went down to using one pump with the working bottle clip. Then, the back part of the pump blew out. It was only connected by flimsy plastic clips and these just wore down and finally snapped off. So I duct taped the back of the pump on and this worked ok. Kept having to replace the duct tape though as it would lose tightness after a few washings. Then it got to the point where I could not tape it on tight enough to create the vacuum. We started using the other pump and the same thing happened to it. Now the whole setup is basically worthless as I am not forking over another $100 to replace the pump. This all happened within 4-6 months. I think these are neat little milkers, but probably should be used more for backup milking if power is out, or colostrum collection only. Their website states these milkers can be used for daily milking, but we have not found this to be the case. We could have bought a small bucket milker for the money we have put into the Udderly EZ. Would not recommend for daily milking. Oddly enough, I was most worried about having to replace bottles. We only lost one bottle during those 4-6 months. The bottles do seem to hold up well, but are useless without the rest of the assembly.

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  15. We purchased and used two Udderly EZ milkers for our milk cow. We bought two thinking we could use them both at the same time and cut down the time it takes to milk. This did work for a couple months before the problems started. We just kept having parts break. The little rubber valves don't last too long and are expensive to replace. Both our handles broke within a short amount of time. These are also expensive to replace. The bottle clip on one broke, so we went down to using one pump with the working bottle clip. Then, the back part of the pump blew out. It was only connected by flimsy plastic clips and these just wore down and finally snapped off. So I duct taped the back of the pump on and this worked ok. Kept having to replace the duct tape though as it would lose tightness after a few washings. Then it got to the point where I could not tape it on tight enough to create the vacuum. We started using the other pump and the same thing happened to it. Now the whole setup is basically worthless as I am not forking over another $100 to replace the pump. This all happened within 4-6 months. I think these are neat little milkers, but probably should be used more for backup milking if power is out, or colostrum collection only. Their website states these milkers can be used for daily milking, but we have not found this to be the case. We could have bought a small bucket milker for the money we have put into the Udderly EZ. Would not recommend for daily milking. Oddly enough, I was most worried about having to replace bottles. We only lost one bottle during those 4-6 months. The bottles do seem to hold up well, but are useless without the rest of the assembly.

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