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Learning To Milk A Dairy Goat

>5 April 2011
 
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So, like I shared on Monday, we got our very first dairy goats over this past weekend. I’m so excited!!

I’ve never in my life milked anything. And now I have dairy goats… that need to be milked twice a day. Talk about jumping in head first!

Milking has been a little bit of a learning process. I explained in my last post that if you don’t pinch off the very top of the teat well enough (where the teat meets the udder), when you go to squeeze the rest of the teat the milk will go back up into the udder instead of coming out. You can feel it going the wrong way. I was a little afraid to pinch too hard, so it took me a while to learn not to make this mistake. I’m still working on it.

When milking a goat you do not pull or yank on the teat. It’s a little difficult to explain without being able to show you the process, but once you’ve closed off the top of the teat using your index finger and thumb curled around the teat, you close the rest of your fingers, one at a time, working the milk down and out. Maybe once I get the hang of it I’ll make a video to demonstrate. Though I’m sure there are probably some good ones you can watch on YouTube already.

We’ve had the goats for three days now, and I’m definitely getting better with each milking. I’ve even gotten comfortable enough to use two hands at a time. I’m only milking one of the does for now, but plan on weaning the kids off of the other doe next week so that I can start milking her as well.

The problem I’m having now is that the one goat has decided she doesn’t want to be milked. I’m sure it’s because she’s still adjusting. But she seems to get ornerier every day. The first morning and evening she was very easy to catch, and jumped right up onto the milkstand (which, by the way, my husband did a great job of building out of scrap wood). But today she wanted nothing to do with being milked. I couldn’t even catch her this morning. I tried on three separate occasions to go out and get a hold of her, but she’s much too fast.

Finally, this evening, she let me get her fairly easily. But while I was milking her she decided she wasn’t happy about it any longer, and began jumping up off her hind legs, dancing around, and kicking the milk jug.

I was determined to milk her out though. She’d gone all day without being milked, and I was worried that she’d begin to get engorged and develop mastitis, or possibly begin drying up. I took my time, massaged her udder, spoke gently and rubbed her neck. Eventually, she stopped messing around and let me finish the job.

I’ve only been able to get about 1/2 quart from her a day… no where near the 3/4 gallon the people we got her from said they were getting! Hopefully it’s just nerves and she’ll loosen up after a few more days. Hopefully.

I tried to milk the other doe tonight, but she wouldn’t have anything to do with jumping up onto the milk stand. I put a bowl of feed down for her, and tried to see if I could get any milk out of her while she ate on the ground. I wasn’t catching the milk, just seeing if she’d let me do it. She did, but I very quickly realized that her teats are much smaller than the other doe’s, which made milking her a lot trickier. Now I know why they sold her so cheap!!

Maybe I can teach Jada how to milk “Smiley”… her little hands might do well with the goat’s small teats!

Anyways, it’s a learning process, for me and for the goats! I’ll be glad when they are used to us and the routine. I’m milking at 9am and 9pm, which works well for me. Jerry hooked up a light for me to use at the milkstand at night, which is great, except for all of the bugs that quickly accumulate and end up in the milk container. I think we’ll have to get a different color light to deter the gnats and moths.

I’ve also realized that I need to have an area where I can separate the other goats from the one being milked. While “Blondie” is on the stand eating from the tray and being milked, “Smiley” and her kids are bad about jumping up and trying to eat Blondie’s snack as well. I have to tie Smiley up to keep her away while I milk. I’ll also need a separate area to pen the kids up while weaning.

Some things you just can’t plan for. You learn as you go. But if you’ve been following us for a while you know that’s how we do it: trial and error.

Thankfully my children quickly took to the goat’s milk, and love it. Now, if I can only get enough to last us a day at a time!! But at least we’re getting something. We’re learning, and hopefully it’ll get better and better as we go.

It’s so fun coming in with fresh milk of our own!! I’m still getting used to hearing myself tell the kids, “I gotta go milk the goat now.” It really is a great feeling!

Any advice from you experienced dairy goat owners out there?

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30 Comments »

  • Chanda said:

    Congrats Kendra, I am so excited for you. I wish I were there to talk to you and to help you. I have only been at it for a short time myself, but you will learn so quickly. One thing you might tyr is to feed the goats only when they are being milked and not too much free range or they will never be hungry enought to voluntarley get on the milking stand. I made the same Mistake with mine in the first few days. She would not get up on the milking stand and she is too big to make her. My husband said I fed her to much the night before so I cut her down of feed and hay during the day and sure enough at evening milking she went right up and started eating and stands very still for milking. Marth is smart, she will kick her leg when her food bowl runs dry during milking, I thought maybe I squeezed too hard or too high up, but I noticed she was only tryig to get my attention. They say they are way smarter than dogs!! Who knew? Best of luck to you and have fun learning to make all the good dairy products with your own little dairy. How cool is that?

  • Jackie @ Crest Cottage said:

    This is so inspiring! I want to do so many things, like getting chickens and goats, and I am too scared. I feel like I want to know more and be prepared, but honestly, there are ALWAYS more things to know and I need to embrace that. It’s nice to see you learning as you go. It makes me feel better to read it!

  • Kimberly said:

    We should so hang out! We jumped right in a week and a half ago and got two Nubians, one in milk. So now I’m milking 2x a day along side you. :) I’ve never gotten as much milk as the sellers said either. :) My girl is triple-teeted so that makes it fun. I’ve NEVER done anything like this in my life. Chickens arrive tomorrow. Glad they don’t need to be milked. Learning as we go works. If we’d waited until everything was good, it’d be years til we got them. Now, we’re just doing it.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Jackie,

    It’s good to read and know a little about the animals before you get them. But like you said, you’ll never know everything! Some things they just don’t tell you in the books. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll learn from them and become more experienced and knowledgeable with time. Chickens are the easiest thing in the world to start with. Get some!! :) If you wait till you think you’re completely ready, you’ll wait forever.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Yay, Kimberly!! That’s GREAT!! Triple-teated huh? Funny! Makes me feel better to hear you say you haven’t gotten as much milk as you were told yet either. Maybe we’ll both get there soon! I’m so proud of you for getting out of your comfort zone and just doing it! Good luck with the chickens too! I think you’ll love having them.

  • Jana said:

    Hi Kendra, Your doing great, I noticed that you said she was calm the first few times you milked her which makes me think that you may be pinching too hard where her teat meets the udder causing her to not want to be milked….just relax, don’t worry about “correct Procedure”…if she is cringing about the experience she won’t let down all that milk. Try not to hold the teat so high, do the pinching lower on the teat, not near the udder….feed some grain as you milk, and if she still ancy, tie her back legs to the stand so she cant lift them. You two will figure it out, my ten and twelve year olds milk ten a day and if they can do it, so can you. :)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thanks, Chanda! Yeah, I’ve just been feeding her grain at milking time. There is a little forage in her pen, but I don’t think enough to be filling her. I dunno. But yea, by this evening she was HUNGRY and eager to get that grain. I was thankful for that! She’s over 100 lbs, and entirely too big for me to try to force to do anything. I wondered if she might be out of food when she started dancing around, but she wasn’t. I wondered if I was pinching her or something. It seemed like she was only bothered when I went to milk the udder farthest from me. Thank you for your encouragement! Hopefully tomorrow will be even better :)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Jana,

    Thank you so much for the advice. You are probably right on what my problem is. Tomorrow, I’ll try pinching lower, I was definitely pinching as high up and close to her udder as possible. I’ve been wondering if she doesn’t like the way I do it. I appreciate your words of encouragement!!!!

  • Carmen at Old House Kitchen said:

    Our Nubian is due to kid in the next week or so. We are totally new to all of this, too! Funny thing is I am expecting so the slightest off smell makes me nauseous. I’m supposed to be the goat’s “midwife” and milker. LOL! We’ll see how all of that goes.

    Question for everyone…how do we go about letting the babies get their nourishment from mama and also be able to milk for us, too? I’ve read all sorts of things but I would like to hear from you gals. Any suggestions?

    Thanks a bunch!

  • Chantel said:

    Hey Kendra,
    I was very young when we had a nanny to milk but I did it often and later I worked in a dairy (cattle) for many years – I think it is much the same. You might have noticed that the goat kids (or calves) will “bump up” on the udder with their noses while they are drinking. This motion encourages the moms to drop their milk and the lack of it, along with the stress of the move, might be contributing to the lesser amount as well. When I washed the teats and did my test squirts on the cows, I would simulate this motion to encourage the milk to drop. You can also do this with the top of your hand (fist) every so often while you are milking. Best way to encourage your lady would be to observe the kids and try to simulate their bumps to her udder. Also, if you are wearing rings, you might have to remove them so they won’t pinch or create a pressure point.

  • Kristin said:

    Kendra,

    You are one of the bravest, strongest women I have ever had the privilege of “knowing”! You are never afraid to try anything… even when you are (if I remember correctly) in your third trimester. You keep me inspired!!!

  • Mona @ Healthy Homesteading said:

    Congrats on your new goats Kendra! You will get the hang of it very quickly. One of the things I learned from a seasoned milking friend of mine was to put your “shoulder in them”. Goats respond to body contact. Not necessarily push or pulling with your hands but with your body. I didn’t understand that until I saw my friend milk a goat I was having trouble with because at the time I was a newbie. She was very kind to the animal but the thing I noticed is that she just put her shoulder into her goat’s hip and the goat responded really well. I have do this now if a goat gives me trouble and they usually respond really well.
    Also, not sure how you are washing the teats but try using warm water on a wash cloth to stimulate let milk flow.

  • Julie Ashley said:

    Kendra,

    How brave you are! I’m interested in getting dairy goats and look forward to hearing more about your experience.

    How much milk can one expect to get from each goat?

    Blessings,

    Julie

  • Lisa said:

    Oh this is so cute. I’m happy for you that you have goats. We got a nice little suburban house but I can only garden – no livestock. One day I hope – we’ll move to a cute 5-acre place somewhere, can have a few chickens, a milk cow …

    I’m not fond of goat’s milk. I’m interested in seeing what you do with it (just drinking it? making cheese?) Maybe it’s an aquired taste. Have you always liked goat’s milk? How about the kids? Anyway maybe one day I’ll have some and I can learn a bit from your blog ahead of time!

    I want chickens. :D

  • Susanna McIntyre said:

    We just got goats a few weeks back as well. They aren’t in milk yet, but one is due to have her baby(s) in a few months. We are reading everything we can find, and my husband just bought “The complete idiots guide to Raising Goats”. lol

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Lisa,

    Have you ever had FRESH goat’s milk? Or just store bought? After about two days the milk begins to take on a “goaty” flavor. This is only the second time in my life that I’ve ever tried goat’s milk. A first for my kids! I even got my dad to try it for the very first time the other day. And we all agree- it’s good! Very, very much like whole store-bought cow’s milk. Nothing to have to get used to. :)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Julie,

    The amount you get depends on several things, including which breed you get and the individual goat. It’s kinda like breastfeeding women, you can’t expect them all to be the same, but you can get a general idea. Like I said, the owners of these goats claimed to be getting 3/4 of a gallon per day. I’m hoping I see something like that soon!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thanks Mona!! I’ll try the shoulder contact thing if she’s dancing around again this morning. I’ve also been using cool water when washing. I wondered if it should possibly be warm, I can see how that would feel more relaxing to her. Another good tip. Thank you!!

    You guys are awesome for all of the great advice!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    LOL, thank you Kristin :) Yes, in my third trimester and going strong, lol! I figure, you live once, why wait to do what you dream!!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thanks Chantel. I do try to massage her udder, but maybe I should be “bumping” it more like they do. Good tip about the rings too. I don’t wear anything other than my wedding ring, but that’s good for other people to keep in mind too!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Carmen,

    The babies should get the colostrum the first week or so, and then you can milk them for yourself. What I plan on doing is separating the kids from the doe either at night, or during the day, and milking her once myself, then allowing them to nurse afterward. Then I’ll wean them completely. They are old enough.

  • sherry said:

    Hi,

    We have Jersey milk cows, but a friend of ours who raises and milks goats told us to put the milk in the freezer for about thirty minutes as quickly as possible after milking. I think it’s suppose to help the flavor because it cools it down very quickly thereby stopping the bacteria growth more quickly?? We’ve also been told that having a seamless milk pail is important because bacteria can get trapped in the seams and affect the flavor. Thought that might help those who previously tried the milk and didn’t like the flavor.

    Thanks, Kendra. So happy for you:)

  • Melissa said:

    Hi Kendra -
    Hope things keep getting better. One thought on keeping the flies out of the milk is to filter as you milk. For the cows, we just milk into an open pot, but for the goats, we milk into quart or half gallon jars with a sterilized men’s handkerchief held on with a rubber band. Someone told us that even a goat hair sitting in the milk until you strain it in the house can give it an off flavor. So it seems to work to filter as we milk. With this size container though, we hold the jar with one hand and milk with the other. This may slow things up but for us the goats are so unpredictable, it’s a safety precaution. At least I don’t lose my milk if the goat moves.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    That’s a great tip, Melissa. Thank you!!!!!

  • Deanna said:

    With cows they tend to get sore if you change how you milk them. Anyone who has begun to use a breat pump can sympathize with this. Often if a new person milks one of our cows she tends to jump and kick for a few days. Animals like routines. She will be easier once she can predict what you will do. You can tie a cows legs down I wonder if you can do the same for a goat. We had a cow we had to do this with for a few weeks and then she stopped kicking.

  • Julie said:

    Kendra,
    There is a holistic goat group on yahoo that you might be interested in joining.

  • Ashlee Logan said:

    So, how does goat’s milk compare to cows milk in flavor? Are planning on making your own cheeses with it, and can you make butter with it? Just curious. I have pondered a cow, but goats are much smaller! :)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Ashlee, in all honesty, if you were to come over and taste my fresh goat’s milk, I doubt you’d be able to tell the difference from cow’s milk. Maybe if you have really particular taste buds, but so far everyone who has tasted this milk has made the comment that it tastes just like regular cow’s milk :) I’d definitely recommend a goat over a cow. Not only are they easier to handle, but they take up less room and cost less to feed and maintain. Yes, I plan on making cheese, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, soap, and anything else possible!! You can make butter, but you have to get a cream separator, as the milk is naturally homogenized. Something I’ll be saving for though in the future!

  • Rachel said:

    Hi Kendra,

    Just a tip on milking – it sounds like you are doing all the right things. However, NEVER skip a milking, or her milk production will go down, sometimes significantly. Also, if you let her eat as much hay as she wants, her milk production should sky rocket!

    Just some tips! I have several dairy goats of my own and actually had one have her babies today! I know it’s kind of hard to figure stuff out at first, but I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thank you Rachel! Yeah, I think we’ve determined that not having hay for them has been the trouble. We’re trying to find somebody local who sells it now. The free forage and grains aren’t enough. Thanks for your advice :)

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