Hundred years since first milking machine

100 years ago, a New Zealand farmer developed and patented a vacuum milking machine. Norman Daysh was brought up on a dairy farm where, every day, twice a day, he milked cows. He was a man who enjoyed inventing machines. He also knew a lot about milking cows and he knew that their teats were sensitive. While other people had tried to invent a milking machine, nobody else had invented one that was comfortable for cows.

He knew that he would need a company to make and sell these machines, so he travelled to New York. The DeLaval company was interested and Daysh worked with the company to make a machine which they could sell. Today the same company is making milking machines which are still vacuum operated and have changed very little in those 100 years. DeLaval has also developed robot milking machines where a cow can walk up to a machine in the field and it is milked automatically.

Milking machines revolutionised dairy farming in New Zealand. Here are some statistics for New Zealand dairy farms. The average size for a herd of dairy cows on a farm is 413 cows. There are 12,000 herds of dairy cows in New Zealand which is about 5 million cows. (We have a population of 4.7m people). The average farm size is 14 ha, with usually 3 cows per ha. 28,000 people work on dairy farms and in total 40,000 people are employed producing dairy products (and that includes the workers on the farms.) New Zealand is the largest exporter of dairy products in the world. Our dairy products sell for a total of $18bn overseas.

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• patented (v), patent (n) – to have the legal rights to a product. Anyone wanting to use it, has to pay the owner of the patent
• vacuum (n) – air is removed so there is less pressure
• teats (n) – part of the cow where the milk comes out
• revolutionised (v) – a huge change like a revolution (eg. the French Revolution)
• herd of cows (n) – group of cows
• ha, abbreviation for hectare – 10,000 sq m


  1. there is a mistake on this “in total 40,00 people”


  2. Thank you. You are quite right.

  3. From Wikipedia, it says ‘In mid-2005, there were 12,786 dairy farms, with a total area of 2.1 million hectares.’ It seems the ‘average farm size’ today is approx 1400 ha NOT 14ha. Based on this script it is calculated 1239 ha that equals 413 ha x 3 cows.
    Am I wrong?

  4. You are right. Good calculations. I was too hasty – also the following post, I made another error, especially so that students can calculate and catch me out. This website gives 144 ha.

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