Milking Your Goat…Easier than you might think!
Positioning Yourself Properly
You want to be at about eye-level to the utters of the goat in order to minimize stress on your back and neck as you milk. The best way to do this is to take a milk stand or chair with the back removed and put it near enough to the goat so that you can pull away at the utters without reaching too far or straining yourself.
However, you should allow some time for the goat to get used to the chair being in the room. Some goats may feel jittery and over react the first couple of times that you introduce the chair to the pen. Get them accustomed to the chair by placing and then removing the chair from the pen a few times a day. Sit on it for a couple of minutes here and there and pet the goat to keep it calm. Once they’ve been accustomed to seeing the chair, then you can start to use it to milk as needed.
You will need a good milk pail along with a strip cup and milk filter. The strip cup is essentially a big tin cup that has some wire mesh on top of it. You can make your own out of any non-breakable material. The best pail is one that is made from aluminum. It will be resistant to dents or breakage if it falls, and it is easy to transport. However, many people are perfectly happy to use plastic as well.
Keep in mind that plastic pails can absorb milk and lead to the development of bacteria if not cleaned properly whereas aluminum ones are easy to clean and store. Make sure that you check around the container for any leaks and replace as necessary in order to avoid spilling and wasting milk.
The purpose of the cup is to determine if the milk is smooth when it comes out. It will filter any chunks or curd-like pieces that can indicate that the goat has a medical condition that can taint the milk. Use the cup as a way to test the first few squirts before each milking session to ensure that the milk is fine.
The milk filter is optional, and you can use anything from a fine meshed screen to a cheesecloth. The basic purpose for the filter is to keep impurities out. You’d be amazed at how much dirt, debris and dust can find its way into your pail while you are milking and transporting the pail when finished. The last thing you want is to have to pick out impurities once the milk has been stored, and chances are that you will need to filter it later anyway, so it makes more sense to cover the pail beforehand.
Milking the Goat
You have two basic options when it comes to how you want to milk the goat. You can do it by hand or use a machine. Hand-milking is the cheapest option, but it can be a little exhausting, especially if you are new to this. However, it also gives you a sense of feel and what it takes to extract milk as you have the dexterity to adapt to the idiosyncrasies of each utter. You should consider using a machine if your forearms and wrists tire easily or if you have a medical condition such as carpal tunnel or arthritis.
You want to wash your hands and forearms before and after milking to protect yourself and the goat from contamination. You may also want to consider wearing latex gloves.
The next thing to do is determine how many fingers you will use to milk the goat. This will be pretty obvious as you adapt to the length of the teat. You can wrap all four fingers around longer teats whereas you will only need two for shorter ones. You can also apply a warm and moist towel to the udder of the goat to promote the flow of milk before you get started.
Take your thumb and index finger and gently squeeze near the top of the teat (the end closest to the udder). You don’t want to completely close it off, just enough so that it will compress the tissue and cause milk to start to drip out. This will also help to prevent milk from getting sucked back into the utter. Take your second, third and pinky finger as needed and place them next to each other as you work your way down.
Gently squeeze the teat with your hand, but don’t pull down. Milk should start to pour out in an even and consistent stream as you compress and release. You will need some practice in order to get a feel of how much pressure you need to apply during compressions to get the optimal amount of milk flowing. Remove your hand after every squeeze or two in order to allow the teat to fill with milk once again. Keep repeating the process until the goat stops producing milk or your pail is full.
You may also want to consider purchasing a “teat dip” cup that slides over the end of the utter. This is a great way to prevent bacteria from forming on the end and causing problems later. This cup kind of resembles a sippie cup that babies use, but with a hole in the middle of the lid for the udder.
Finally, be sure that you don’t pull or squeeze the utter too hard or touch the bottom end of the utter. This is a sensitive area for the goat, and irritating it can be painful and also lead to the development of an infection.
The average goat should be able to produce between three and seven quarts of milk per day, depending on their size, age and individual biological make-up. Generally speaking, bigger goats will produce more milk, but this is not always the case.
Most of these steps will become intuitive after you’ve practiced a few times, and try and be mindful of the goat’s level of comfort as you are milking. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to extract milk with minimal strain on you or the goat and ensure that the milk is free from impurities or debris.