Until a few weeks ago I had never milked a goat. A few days before bringing my goats home I called a woman I know who raises LaManchas and Alpines and asked if she could teach me. She gave me a quick lesson on one of her easiest milkers, as well as some tips for getting started. I thought I would take the time to share what I have learned with anyone out there that might be considering raising goats for milk.
A seamless stainless steel milking pail(I couldn’t find one small enough to fit under my dwarf goat and ended up ordering a two quart food/water pail from a dog supply company)
Towels or paper towels
Teat dip cup (I use dixie cups but a shot glass would work too)
Milk tote or jar to hold milk
A treat (I give my goat a vitamin C tablet and she loves it).
My husband built me a milking stanchion to make milking easier.
Mocha jumps right up onto the milking stand and sticks her head in the stanchion to get her grain. I can then close and latch the stanchion and she is unable to get her head out.
I begin by dipping her teats in teat wash and wiping her udder clean with a paper towel soaked in the wash. I use the formula recommended by Molly at Fias Co Farm.
I then squirt a few streams of milk into the strip cup to check for signs of mastitis (any lumps, flakes, or stings in the milk could indicate mastitis, then the milk can be tested with a mastitis test strip) .
Nigerian goats are a dwarf breed and they have rather small teats. Because of this I get my thumb all the way up on the udder, then I pinch the top of the teat between my thumb and forefinger.
Then I press down with my middle and ring fingers to push the milk out of the teat
The first few times I milked Mocha she managed to kick the pail and spill half of the milk. After a few tears I got smart and started taking a jar out with me to pour off the milk. About two thirds of the way through milking Mocha tends to get a bit a kicky. I personally think she is willing to share her milk up to a point, and then she wants to reserve the rest for her baby. At this point I pour off the milk from my pail. Then if she does kick the pail there isn’t enough milk in it to slosh over the sides. If see seems unsettled I will milk one handed so that I can hold the pail with the other hand. Mocha gives me between 3-4 cups of milk at her morning milking. I crate her baby (Chino) at night so that Mocha has plenty of milk in the morning, then I allow them to spend all day together and I do not do an evening milking. Once Chino is weaned (we will probably wait till 16 weeks), Mocha should give a little more than one and a half quarts of milk a day. Not bad for a 65 pound goat.
Once I am finished milking I once again dip Mocha’s teats and allow them to air dry. Then I give Mocha her treat to reward her for sharing her milk.
Milk Care and Handling
I use all stainless steel and glass equipment for milk handling and storage because it can be easily sanitized. Before beginning milking I sanitize all of my equipment in a sink full of hot water with a quarter cup of bleach. I have never been a big fan of bleach, but in this instance I feel that it is the safest, most practical option. I let the items soak for 2 minutes then air dry for 15 minutes.
Before I head out to milk I place the jar I will be using to store the milk and the milk strainer in the freezer. When I head in from milking the first thing that I do is pour the milk in to the strainer and place it directly into the fridge. I do not pasteurize my milk so it is extremely important to chill the milk to 35 degrees as quickly as possible, and then to keep the milk between 35 and 38 degrees( no leaving raw milk out on the counter during dinner). The milk should last for a week. We use all of our milk within 48 hours so I haven’t actually found out first hand how long it takes to begin to turn sour.
I then wash all of my equipment in warm soapy water and store for the next milking. I label and date the milk so that the oldest milk always gets used first. The milk currently in use is placed in a glass pitcher.
Most of the milk that I get from Mocha is for my eleven month old daughter, who is thriving on it. Any left over I use for making yogurt. Eventually I plan to breed Mocha and build a small herd of milk goats. I figure three goats would provide my family of four with milk for drinking as well as some cheese and yogurt. My husband was a bit skeptical about this plan until he tasted the milk. It is wonderful!
These goats have been such a pleasure to own. In less then three weeks they have become a part of our family. Mocha follows me around like a puppy while I do my chores. It is so much fun to see my two year old play with Chino. They chase each other around the pasture, the backyard, and sometimes through the house. I am looking forward to sharing my goat stories for years to come.