Innovative Mare Milker

A new invention by Buck Wheeler called the Udderly EZ mare milker is helping breeding farms manage colostrum collection and the sometimes difficult task of milking a mare.

The device is a hand-held, trigger-operated pump that fits on a flanged plastic cylinder that screws onto a clear plastic bottle. To use it, wipe the mare's udder clean, squeeze the teat to strip off any "wax" that might be plugging the end of it, place the flange over the teat, and start pumping. It takes two or three pumps to create a vacuum, then milk flows into the bottle. When the bottle is full, it can be fed to the foal, or poured into a storage container for freezing.

Mike Cavey, DVM, a veterinarian in Kentucky who owns Respite Farm, used the milker on each mare that foaled this season because he hand-feeds colostrum. "When a mare foals, we milk her and feed the foal with a bottle to make sure he gets adequate colostrum even before he gets up. If we have a mare with extra colostrum, we milk 8 to 12 ounces from her and freeze it for our colostrum bank."

He also uses the milker if a mare has a weak or sick foal that can't stand up to nurse. "We milk the mare and feed the foal by bottle," says Cavey. "The milker has two sizes (flanged cylinder that fits over the teat). One fits large mares (with larger teats) that produce a lot of milk, and one fits smaller mares or maiden mares."

Cavey says it's much safer than trying to milk with thumb and forefinger; you don't have to get down under the mare. "You can keep one hand on her side; if she moves or gets upset, you have one hand to protect yourself, or to soothe and scratch her.

Wheeler also makes The Stableizer, a halter device that works on acupressure points at the poll and under the upper lip to calm and restrain a horse without undue harshness. It has been used for years on racetracks and in breeding sheds. Cavey suggests using it on nervous mares while milking them. "It allows you to let go of the mare and concentrate on milking, if you are working by yourself," he says, suggesting that The Stableizer relaxes the mare so she lets her milk down better.

Norman Umphenour, DVM, resident veterinarian at Ashford Stud in Kentucky, also is using the mare milker this year to obtain extra colostrum to store. "We check colostrum on all mares, and if a mare doesn't have enough antibodies, we supplement her foal with stored colostrum," says Umphenour. "The milker works well when trying to get colostrum from a maiden mare, and it doesn't make their teats sore. When you try to milk short little teats with thumb and finger, it often irritates the teat because they're hard to milk."

If a mare is NI positive (potential to cause jaundice in the foal) and the foal must not nurse his dam, she must be milked regularly until her colostrum is gone and her milk comes in. This device makes milking her out much easier, and it can be used to milk a nurse mare to provide feedings for the foal until it's safe for him to nurse his mother again. Milking that often by hand tends to make teats sore, but the pump works with less irritation.

The milker is easy to clean; the pump portion snaps on and off. After use the milking cylinder and container can be dunked in warm water with a little bleach added, then allowed to dry.

About the Author

Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey's Guide to Raising Horses and Storey's Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog,, she writes a biweekly blog at that comes out on Tuesdays.

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