Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
We are a State of Maine licensed raw dairy, and the information contained in this post is about how we do things. We are held to the same standards on milk testing that large corporations which process pasteurized cow milk are held to. With that being said, we pass our milk tests with flying colors over and over again, so we must be doing something very right!
A question often asked is “how do I go about milking my goat”? The answer is not an easy one to answer in writing, but I am going to try to make this process simple and fun!
Many folks also complain about hand and wrist pain along with sore backs from milking their goats, and I will address this also.
First let’s talk about sitting positions. How you sit will most likely affect how you feel after you’ve milked. I have heard about or seen in person so many different ways of positioning yourself while milking. One friend, while very pregnant, found the only position she was comfortable in, was bending over the back of the goat and milking from behind! I didn’t actually get to see her do this, but, I wish I had, what a visual!! I have seen photos in National Geographic of goats being milked in other countries in this fashion.
The two positions that Ken and I use on our farm are sitting on the milk stand and sitting beside the milk stand. I like to sit on the stand up close and personal to the goat I am milking. I find that with this position, I am not stretching out my arms, thus, taking the pressure off the muscles. Years ago, when working in an office I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel, and was miserable. When I stopped working, it went away. I thought milking the goats would bring it back in a big way, but in the seven or so years we’ve been hand milking, I can honestly say I have never had a sore muscle from milking!
My husband, Ken, sits on an overturned kitty litter bucket to milk and finds this position very comfortable for him. When I tried to sit like he does, all I succeeded in doing was filling my shirt sleeve with milk!
We use all stainless steel milking equipment; my favorite milking pail has a nice turned lip that I can rest my wrists on. Ken’s favorite pail has no lip at all. It really is personal preference and if you can try different ones at someone’s farm you can decide what is comfortable for you.
Now for hand position: you cannot just grab the teat and squeeze. Doing so will drive the milk back up into the udder. We have found the best and most successful way is to place your hands on the teat and, right where the teat meets the udder make a circle with your thumb and forefinger. Squeeze this shut. In doing so, you will cause the milk to be trapped in the teat. Now, close your fingers, middle then ring, and then baby fingers. Voila! Milk comes out the orifice at the bottom of the teat. To get the hang of it you can practice on a partially water filled balloon.
I will share with you, our entire milking routine. First, get the equipment ready. Put filters in the strainers, and get your pans, bottles, and buckets prepared.
Secondly, I fill the feed pans with the proper amount of grain. Remember, 1 pound of grain per goat for maintenance plus 1 pound for every 3 to 4 pounds of milk they produce. So, in other words, for a goat producing a gallon of milk per day (8.6 pounds per gallon) she should get approximately 3 pounds of grain per day divided between the morning and evening milking.
Now, it’s time to let the girls in…goats are extremely intelligent and quickly learn the order they should come in! We have two milking stands, so two it is!
We clean their teats with unscented baby wipes. (They absolutely without a doubt have to be unscented because the scent can easily transfer itself to the milk!) Then we milk the goat until they seem empty. At that point a little udder massage will cause the goat to let down any other milk that she might be holding back. We finish milking until their teats are flaccid. (Flat and dangly). Remember, supply and demand. The more you demand, the more they supply!
After milking, we spray the very bottom of their teats with a product called Fight Bac. This product is fantastic. It causes the orifice of the teats to constrict and clamp shut allowing no bacteria from the barn to sneak up into the teat.
The milk is then weighed, and strained for the first time. During this first straining, it is amazing how much foam gathers in the filter!
All of the milk is poured into one container then that container goes to the milk processing room where it is strained again. Almost no foam this time! Then the milk is poured into sterile bottles and refrigerated. Our refrigerator is a refrigerator only, no freezer. It is set at 38 degrees which if you set your kitchen refrigerator at that temperature would freeze your veggies! The milk either goes into making cheese, or re-bottled for customers who wish to purchase great raw milk.
Remember when you are cleaning up to clean up under the rims, around the handles, and scrub your funnel neck with a small brush!
If you want to learn much more about goat husbandry, milking, raising goats for meat, or fiber, Goat School is coming up quickly! Columbus Day weekend, October 6th and 7th are the dates with a Soap Making and Cheese Making class scheduled for Monday October 8th. We still have room, but will start filling up fast as we get closer so get your registrations in now!
You can also check out my books, “The Goat School Manual” and “Goat School, A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking”.