If you have goats, sooner or later you'll probably think about milking them. Hand-milking is easy, but if you have more than 5 in milk (or if you have wonky hands), you'll start thinking about a milking machine. Buying one from the goat-shops is pricey, though - plan on spending at LEAST $1,000. For a single-goat milker. You can do the eBay route (which I did)...but that's still at least $600. Let me save you some money - I'll show you what we have, how we could have saved money, and what we added.
Many, MANY thanks to Cotton-Eyed Does website - she has a quick DIY on milking machines. However, I'm blonde, and needed a little more detail. So....here ya go. :lol:
I did all the research, I read Cotton-Eyed Does site, I asked a LOT of questions.....but I still wasn't sure of what I needed, or how to set it up, or.....so I went to eBay and bought a refurbished Surge Belly milker. (I know I've posted photos before, but I want them all together here). This is what we got for $690:
A vacuum pump, a Surge Belly pail, a rebuilt Surge pulsator, 4 shells and inflations, and all the hoses. That's it. That's the whole thing. :blink: It works, but.....needed a little tweaking. Let's take a look at things:
The rebuilt pulsator was a POS right out of the box.
Problem after problem - it wouldn't pulsate. Or it would start, then freeze up. We took it apart, we cleaned it, we jiggled it - it made milking no fun. The gals on DGI told me to chuck it and buy an Interpuls one - they are much better. I finally did, and I agree - Interpuls is THE way to go. ($89, + $20 for the adaptor to fit my lid) (Are you keeping track? :lol:)
Look at the inflations in the first picture - see the "caps"? That's what the seller was calling "shut-offs". They are, but they suck. You need to get valves to go on the milkline under the elbow:
(I don't have any installed in that picture - I bought some, and they arrived cracked. I'm waiting on replacements now.)
Now you have a basic system. Seriously, that's all you *need* to milk 4 goats. (Maybe more, if they aren't big producers.) Let's see how it breaks out, price-wise, to buy it yourself (I'm not going to include shipping, because I figure you'll pay shipping no matter where you buy from). I'm going to price things from both eBay, and Parts Dept - there are other places, but these are my 2 choices (Hoeggers, Hamby's Dairy, and Caprine Supply are other good places, but they're a bit pricer on most of the stuff). I'm also assuming you want to milk 2 goats at a time, here - if not, you need some short hoses to close off the 2 pulsator ports and 2 milkline ports.
OK, you need a bucket. eBay has some Surge buckets right now from $35+. DeLaval buckets go for about $100. You need a lid - those run any where from $29+ (ETA: The lids are universal - you do NOT have to buy a "matched set". Ditto on the shells - ANY shell will work, you just need to find the correct inflations for them). You can get both a Surge bucket AND lid for right at $100 right now on eBay. (PD is more - their buckets are new, and start out at $135. So....I'm trying to do this cheap!)
Shells run about $8/each at PD, and inflations are $10.95/set of 4. eBay has some shells - 8 for $20, and inflations are 4 for $15.
You'll want to replace all the rubber parts, just because. PD has the lid gasket for $2.95. Hoses can be bought locally - I think we spent $20 to replace the milk lines on ours.
Let's get a quick sub-total here: we're at $160 (mostly eBay) for the bucket, lid, shells, inflations, hoses, and gasket. We're not done, but still.....
Pulsator.....I'ma have to recommend you go new and spring for the Interpuls one and adaptor. $109. If you want cheap, and don't mind futzing with it...looks like Surge pulsators are running right at $30 on eBay. Figure you'll need a rebuild kit - that's $11 from PD. Personally, I'd go with the Interpuls, but that's me. :lol:
Sub-total now is: $270 - and you're just about done! All you need is a vacuum pump - and THAT'S where the money is.
You need a pump with at least 6 cfm (like I know what that is! :lol:) Looks like eBay's your best bet - they are running around $200 - $300. Let's split the difference, and say $250.
Total: $520.00 for a working machine that you put together yourself. (I'm assuming all the parts work, too). Not bad - I paid $690 for mine, so you saved $170.00. And if you can find a vacuum pump locally (or have one, or can turn your air compressor around), you'll save even more! (Shut off valves are cheap - I'm thinking $3/each - so I didn't include those in the prices)
But! While this works, you'll also want a balance tank - if you overflow your bucket, or some cleaning solution gets sucked up, you want something to catch it before it hits the pump. You can build one of those pretty easily - I did!. You need 4" thick-walled PVC pipe, and an bunch of fittings:
I spent $120 total on mine, but we already had the 4" PVC. That'll add to the cost, but you really need that size. (As a comparison, let's look at PD's balance tanks....whoa. $399! I'll build my own!)
The 4" pipe reduces down to 2" where the pump ties in:
The red valve is for the bucket hose, the vacuum regulator is for the pump hose.
I didn't get any in-progress shots of this - basically, we laid everything out in Home Depot to make sure I had what I needed, then brought it home, cut the 4" pipe and 2" pipe, then glued it all up. It really is easy - if I can do it, anyone can.
Here it is all assembled:
You'll notice that the vacuum regulator is missing....it didn't work, so I took it back. (It leaked). My pump has a gauge on it, so I'm not worried - but I will eventually get a new regulator and gauge for it (so I can replace the pump if I need to). This works - it holds the pressure steady now (before, the pressure fluctuated with the pulsations. Annoying!) Again, though - you don't NEED the balance tank to use the machine. Just be sure you empty the bucket in between pairs (or not, if you have smaller goats. :wink:)
And.....here the whole shebang is in use:
This is the Interpuls pulsator - the adaptor makes it sit up on the lid more, but it works and I love it. :lol: This picture was taken as we milked out Rosa and Annie (2 at a time! What a concept!!)
Start the pump before you bring in the goats. Get your pressure up to 12 - it takes longer with the balance tank then without. Once you get the right pressure, let the goats in, clean the teat, strip, and grab the inflations. Crimp the line. The inflations fit over the teat, un-crimp the line, and the milk flows. (Since I don't have shut-offs yet, I have to crimp the milk lines so I don't lose vacuum. It's no big deal, and we have it down to a good routine.) If you have shut-offs, you don't need to crimp, just turn the valve. :grin:
The bucket sits between the 2 stands while we milk, then we push it back under the pump until the next 2 come in.
When we're done, we hang the inflations in the 2 velcro loops in front of the balance tank. It keeps them out of the way, lets the drip-dry, and is just handy. :lol: (The shut-offs in this picture are on the pulsator lines, because I am a dumb blonde. They don't GO on those, they go on the milklines. :sigh:)
Seriously, if you think you might want to move to machine milking (even if you don't have goats at the moment, but want them), you might want to start purchasing the parts. Grab them now, while prices are a bit low - prices WILL go up, and soon. Most of the parts will fit inside the bucket, so you don't need a lot of space.....and a machine does make life a little easier. I'm in and out of the milkroom in 15 minutes now - INCLUDING cleaning the machine! (OK, sometimes 20 minutes, but still - beats the heck out of an HOUR, 2x/day!)