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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Goats: Udders and Hand Milking


Let me preface this post by saying, we don’t show our goats. We are a licensed Raw Dairy producing milk and cheese for sale at the farm and also at local farmers’ markets, so what follows is information pertaining specifically to hand milking. 



Udders, big, small, tight, loose, big teats, small teats, and large and small orifices in the teats; all of these things affect milking! Not how much milk is produced, but the ease of hand milking.  Oh and one other thing, the fun of dealing with the first freshener!  


A commonly asked question is “how will I know when my goat’s udder is empty?” I always giggle a little under my breath when I get this one, then with a very straight face I reply, “when no more milk comes out”.  Of course another way to tell is when the teats lose their full look and become very limp. 



I took lots of photos of our girls full and empty udders, but the one that shows “empty” the best is Sweet Pea. She is a Sable, first freshener, doing fantastic in the milking department, and will probably lead the herd in milk production by next year! 

And, speaking of first fresheners, another frequently asked question is how we get our newbies to behave so well.  That answer is so easy! Once our little girls are tall enough to reach the food pan on the milking stand, that’s where they start getting their meals.  By the time they are ready to be milked for the first time, they are first of all, completely familiar with the milking stand and where their food is, and secondly, they are very calm about getting up on the stand because they know it’s always a pleasant experience. Toward the end of their pregnancies, every time they come into the milking room to eat, they get petted, stroked, and we palpate their udders. So on the first milking day, they know what’s going to go on!  



Now, let’s talk about udders! A great big udder doesn’t always mean a great big slug of milk; and the same is true with small udders!  Our biggest producer, Chami, who is also a Sable, has what I would classify a medium sized udder, medium sized teats, and unfortunately small orifices in her teats. What does that mean? It means she produces well over a gallon at the beginning of the season, but, it takes quite a while to milk her because the size of the orifice prohibits a big flow of milk. My husband, Ken, can get two goats milked while I milk Chami. She’s a great goat with fantastic production so I wouldn’t trade her for anything! 


Xable (pronounced Zable) is another Sable who has a totally different udder. Even though we milk by hand, Xable would be the perfect goat for a milking machine. Xable has a very small udder with very small teats and huge orifices in her teats. Milking her is like turning on a faucet! She is a 5 to 7 pound (a gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds) a day milker and she produces gorgeous triplets every year. She is our herd comedienne, her comic relief every morning makes it all worthwhile. 

Winnie, a French Alpine, has a huge udder, great big “baloney” teats, and large orifices.  She is without a doubt, our easiest, fastest, most talkative milker. She produces between 7 and 9 pounds a day. 


Our two first fresheners, Sweet Pea and Twilite, (both are Sables) have beautiful udders, growing teats and great orifices. Growing teats? Yes, as these first milkers are milked twice a day, their small first time teats, start to become stretched and they literally grow. Both girls are already up to 6 pounds or more per day, and promise to be fantastic producers by next season. 


As an aside, milk is produced by supply and demand.  If you are not placing a demand, production will continue to be depleted until it stops altogether! So, when you are hand milking, make sure you empty the udder completely. What we do, is once the udder is empty, we massage it for a few seconds and, believe it or not, there is always more milk there. 

If you have any questions after reading all of this, please feel free to ask them in the comment section, I’ll be more than happy to answer them for you. 

A lot more information is available in my books, Goat School: the Manual, and Goat School:A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking. 

Want to learn a lot more? Come to Fall Goat School, on Columbus Day weekend! A gorgeous time to visit Maine! 


3/12/2015 5:05:55 PM

I should probably add that I do know that Alpines are going to give more than Nubians...

3/12/2015 5:01:03 PM

I have a few goat problems I would love to have sorted out. We have mainly nubians and we never ever get a big bag. Let me preface this with when I first started off, I bought an Alpine who was already in milk from a lady and this goat had a huge bag and gave us A LOT of milk. The nubians we have do good to give us 3/4 of a large butter bowl (country crock). Also, we keep having babies who are super healthy (thank God!) but the moms just walk away from them and we wind up stanchioning the moms, milking them (twice a day until empty), and turning around and giving the milk to the babies and we wind up supplementing with formula because it's never enough. We've tried milking 3 or 4 times a day to create the increased demand type of effect to no avail. It just decreases the amount we get throughout the day. (Like a gallon spread out over 4 milkings). We're home all the time so bottle feeding is not an issue but having baby goats in the house or walking out to the nursery pen gets old real fast and we would prefer the moms raise the babies (don't get me wrong, we enjoy the babies and love how they become very human-friendly). But in the end, we want LOTS of milk for us (I make yogurt, ice cream etc for the boys), for the chickens, and for the pigs. We currently have a first freshener who has knots at the top of the teat where it meets the udder. She also refused to feed her baby so, since we're drenched in rain non-stop, lil man is stomping around my newspaper-lined laundry room. I believe she got this way because we left the baby in there over night under the impression that she WAS letting him nurse. This was not the case, so 30 hours after lil man was born, we look at him and he looks pitiful with an empty belly and she is about to burst and still won't let him even after we stanchion her, strip her, and then PUT him to the teat, she starts stomping and acting CRAZY. So we milk her down thinking her teats hurt because they're so full, then we try putting him on the teat again and again she goes to stomping the mess out of lil man again. I need help. There is virtually NO ONE around here who does goats and the one person I found and tried to ask questions to acted like I was trying to rob him of trade secrets or something. I do not live in a place where there is a goat culture and getting goat supplies is an online order thing only and only one vet in the entire parish will even see a goat and you have to take it to him. Please help....

1/22/2014 3:57:55 PM

Love this page on goats. New in the goat care. Have a 3mth Saanen and want to know how her udder develops. At this stage her teats are in the rear and there is a lump developing in front of the teats, looking like the teats are not attached to the udder.

7/17/2013 6:36:19 AM

We just got an alpine dairy goat and two does.  We are concerned because one of her udder's never seems to fill as much as the other.  I'd say it's a ration of 1:3.  Sometimes it seems almost empty. Is this something to be concerned about?  We are not around her all the time and her two does are in the pen with her, but she usually refused them milk when we are around.  The babies are two months old.  

phoebe brow
10/30/2012 10:23:51 PM

We've been considering mini LaManchas for our small ranch. Do you always milk your goats every 12 hrs or would 10 or 11 hrs between milkings be acceptable?

gullringstorp goatgal
10/13/2012 2:40:49 PM

Hej from Sweden! I have a small herd of 22 West African Miniature Dairy goats who have the tiniest teats. I use a hand milker right now but am saving for a portable milker for at least 4 at a time. I love my ladies and boys. We milk everyday twice a day and get plenty of milk. You can see my goats on my blog: I make 100% Natural Goat Milk Soap that you can see on my website

johnny mccracken
8/23/2012 5:51:54 PM

Hey, Enjoyed your blogand have found you to be quite knoledgable on goats . I can see that you love what you do . I to have a few goats, and my family and I get such joy and satisfaction from raising them. We have hand raised all our goatsexcept for one nanny , our goats are just another member of our family. Thanks for the really good info.

jennifer evans
8/10/2012 6:04:15 PM

Does the orifice size ever change? Or does a goat with a small orifice always have a small orifice?

tammy resendiz
8/7/2012 12:06:06 AM

Can you milk a boer goat, I was told they will not give up any milk?

janice spaulding
7/24/2012 7:49:18 PM

Has this girl ever been milked before? It almost sounds like she was never trained to be milked. I think I would start working on the doelings and get them used to the milking stand. Do some of the things that I do, even before they are bred, start massaging where their udder will be and get them used to being handled.

janice spaulding
7/24/2012 7:49:09 PM

The milk records keep you informed about how your girls are doing on a daily basis. The page I photographed was before everyone had kidded, but I even keep track of colostrum amounts. As for the pain with milking, try putting your hands in different positions. My husband and I both milk, and we both milk so differently! I sit on the stand next to the goat I'm milking and I found that eased a tremendous amount of stress on my wrists and hands (I have rheumatoid arthritis and have never had to use a machine to milk) and it has worked terrific. Ken sits on a milking stool and milks from that position, which is more comfy for him.

pat moore
7/23/2012 12:30:20 PM

No, Lisa milking does not cause nerve damage. I've been hand milking for over 15 years and there is nothing wrong with my hands. Relax and just continue milking.

pat moore
7/23/2012 12:28:16 PM

My question is how to milk a Pygmy goat who has never been milked except for the triplets she delivers? She does such a disapproving dance, that I've also given up on her. Her doelings of June this year have stopped nursing, at the age of 7 weeks and are eating and drinking on their own. Mama is about 7 years old.

lisa la loca
7/19/2012 7:42:29 PM

Wait, milking goats causes nerve damage in your hands!?

abbey bend
7/18/2012 10:04:38 PM

Judy, you should build one of the small machine milkers and save your hands. I have a lot of nerve damage, one of this is prefect for people like us. They are easy to build, lot of YouTube Videos. All they are is a couple of large syringes, minus the plunger, a hand vacuum pump, auto parts stores carry them, called vacuum brake bleeder, and some tubing and a jug or two.

judy grimsby
7/18/2012 4:08:15 PM

I like for milk record form. I only have two Oberhasli and for some reason now my hands hurt alot. I did take 10 days off in mid june cause my son was at the fair. I love to milk but somedays it is very painful and takes along time to milk one goat. like 15-20 mins. ugh. Thanks for your article.