OK. We’re a week into milking, and I have learned A Lot. As I’ve said before, I have most of the diary goat books on the market; I am a member of Dairy Goat Info, and I frequent Homesteading Today’s Goat Forum. I thought I had a handle on things…and then we got goats in milk. :lol:
When we started, we had the goats, we had book-knowledge, and we had a 5 minute “how-to milk” demonstration. I had spent a few months buying the “Must Have” things that the books and forums said I needed – even some of the things they said were nice to have, but not necessary. I thought we were ready……oh, how little I knew!
To begin with, I figured I need some sort of milking machine. So….I bought 3 Maggidan Milkers. (We’ll be milking 5….2 first, then 3, to get it done quickly.) My left wrist is all sorts of buggared – and I figured that it wouldn’t hold up to 2 times a day, every day milking. I also thought it would get the job done quicker……AND it would make it easier for the kids (especially Himself) to help. :snerk:
Since I had the milkers, I figured we didn’t NEED a milk filter – after all, with the machine, the milk goes straight from the goat to the bucket, in a closed system. There’s “no way” for the milk to get contaminated with hair/dirt/whatever. :right:
Let me tell you – I wish someone had told me EXACTLY what to expect. That’s what I’m going to attempt to do now, for those of you thinking about taking the plunge. It would have saved me money (a good thing!), time, and frustration. :nods: (Please note: I tend to go overboard with stuff. We wanted chickens, so we got 20. Sweet Geek wanted goats, so we got 5. We have the space for it...but I don't really recommend this route. I also tend to buy *everything* "they" say you need.....not all at once, of course, but I save up and go to town. This isn't necessarily the way to go...I ended up buying stuff we didn't really need - it's nice to have, but we didn't NEED it. One thing to remember - you can always upgrade later if you see the need to. You can't downgrade as cheaply. (I need to tattoo this to my hand, I think.....:sigh:))
So….first off, what I do may not fit you or your family. I am NOT trying to run a Class A dairy; I’m not planning on selling milk or other dairy products, I’m planning on using everything our goats produce for private family use only. (Well…I might sell soap. Maybe. :grin:) We made the decision to NOT pasteurize our milk – we know what the girls are eating, we keep things as clean as possible in the milk room, and I try to hustle the milk from the goat to the fridge as fast as I can. You might be more comfortable pasteurizing…but that’s something you need to decide (you can pasteurize with a double-boiler on the stove top, if you choose to go that route.) Now, one downside to our natural approach – the milk won’t keep like pasteurized milk will. 4 days according to our breeder friend. Right now, that’s not an issue – what Calvin doesn’t drink we do, but that is something to keep in mind. Anyway…
You have a doe in milk. You want to get her on a stand to make it easy on you – goats, even full size ones, aren’t the largest animals out there. Good milkers have HUGE udders – which means the teats are kinda close to the ground. You need to get her up to a comfortable height for you – our stands are 21” high, which is a comfortable height for me (5’ 4.5”) and Sweet Geek (5’ 9”). It’s even a good height for the 2 kids! We feed the girls their meals on the stand – both to encourage them to jump up (they’re HEAVY) and to make milking a pleasant experience for them. We have the neck stanchions, but haven’t used them – I have a dog leash wrapped around the frame, and we clip it to their collar. :shrug: (Zorra will stick her head in the stanchion with NO problem…..I figure, we’ll get these 2 trained sooner or later. )(OH! As of this morning, BOTH girls hopped up on the stands by themselves!!!!)
We feed our milkers on the stand, both morning and night. That way, we’re sure they get their full ration and aren’t bullied away from the food they need. A lot of people add sweet feed as a top dressing…..my goats don’t like it! Some people feed alfalfa cubes…again, my 2 think I’m trying to poison them. :silly goats: The other 3 think sweet feed is ambrosia, and that the alfalfa cubes are manna from Heaven, so…..you don’t want to feed too much sweet feed – the molasses can cause problems in their rumen, so if you only have 1 or 2 goats you might not want to spend the $$ on the extra treats. (I have horses and chickens that’ll eat the Sweet Feed and alfalfa up like they’re starving, so it wasn’t a big deal that these 2 silly goats don’t like them.)
Cleaning: All the books and forums say you have to clean the udder, and most of them recommend specialized udder wipes. Ummm……we use baby wipes. MOST of the commercial ones are basically the same thing – if you’re worried about bacteria, you can add some teat dip to the wipes. Baby wipes are cheap – I think this batch was $1 at the Dollar store (AND it has Shae butter! Good for the udders!) (And, this wasn’t my idea. It was discussed on the Dairy Goat forum, and got good reviews. So…..) I use 1 – I wipe the teats first, then rub the udder itself to remove any bedding/loose hair/dirt.
Milking: The first squirt or 2 should go into a strip cup. I bought “real” ones (because I wanted to do everything correctly…..should’a saved my money!) – these are from Hamby’s Dairy Supply, and were made for cows. They’re HUGE – about a pint each, I think. (They’ll hold over a pound of milk. Big!) – use a small bowl, or even an old lid. You just need something that’ll hold the milk so you can check for lumps/strings/off-color. If you want something with a screen, use an old coffee mug and a bit of window screen rubber-banded over it – same basic idea as my offical strip cups. :lol:
The actual milking process is so simple, but hard to explain. I have full-sized goats. When we realized Annie wasn’t going to stand for the milker, we ran to Tractor Supply and grabbed a 4 Qt stainless steel bucket (from the dog food aisle). (You WANT stainless or plastic. Most people use stainless, because they say it’s easier to keep clean. My dishwasher has a sanitize cycle…..so I don’t see why I couldn’t use plastic. TSC didn’t have any plastic buckets, though, so….stainless it was. I wouldn’t use galvanized – I would think that would affect the taste of the milk. I’m thinking for smaller goats, I’d grab a “kitchen compost bucket” – those look to be smaller, and they have a lid. Lids are good!) You need something that will fit under the goat, and give you room to work. Whatever you use, make sure you can whisk it out of the way if the goat decides to kick/stamp/try to turn over the bucket.
The actual process isn’t anything I thought it was. You don’t pulll, you squeeze. What I do, I grab the teat where it attaches to the udder with the crotch of my thumb and forefinger. My thumb sort of massages the udder while my fingers squeeze the milk out. Sweet Geek grabs the same spot, but sorta rolls his thumb into the palm of his hand to get the milk out. It doesn’t take much, once you get the milk going, to empty out each side. When the flow slows down, you “bump” or massage the udder to get her to let more milk down. (A kid whacks her udder with it’s nose – it’s violent, it’s hard…so my bumping it? Is a lot gentler!)
I have sorta mastered 2-handed milking. I can’t keep it up, since my left wrist is only good for about 6 squeezes before I have to rest it. It goes much faster than 1-handed milking…of course. :grin:
Right now, we’re milking each goat in a separate container, and hauling both of them to the house, where I weigh each one and record it. However…I just bought a fish-scale (a battery operated digital scale) that will go in the barn. I will weigh each goat’s output there, then combine them into my 3.5 gallon “carry-bucket”. I’ll only have to worry with 1 bucket full of milk - right now it’s difficult to haul the 2 full buckets, the milker, the strip cups, and whatever else to and from the house. I set up an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of production – I printed off 12 of them, and write in the amounts for each milking. (You do need to do this – that way you can catch any problems pretty quickly).
Once you finish with each goat, you should balm the udder, and use teat dip. The balm…..I don’t think that’s a necessity. We use it…but…..seems to me it’s just a sticky substance looking for bedding. The post dip, though IS important – it helps close the oriface so no nasties get up in the udder. You can use a Clorox solution - something like 1 Tbl Clorox (NO generic here!) per gallon of water – but you have to remix it every day (some say every milking). You can use Betadine (expensive), which kills more than Clorox, or you can buy a “real” one. We tried the Clorox – it made my hands dry out – and the Betadine – too messy, and finally went to TSC and bought Nolvasan S. I mix 1 tsp per 9 oz of water in my teat dip cups. It seems milder than the Clorox solution, and it’s made to clean animal areas……so :shrug: Works, and smells nice. The bottle wasn’t cheap, but it’ll last forever (you mix it up and use it ‘til it’s gone before mixing more. I filled 2 dip cups, and you can’t see that the bottle has gone down any.)
For maximum safety, milk is supposed to be chilled down below 40* in 30 minutes. Hard to do in a Homestead-type setup. What I did, was make a strong brine solution (boil a pot of water, and add pickling salt to the saturation point.), then double-bag it in quart-sized Ziplock freezer bags. I plunk one in the carry-bucket, then put the milk bucket on top of it. It does the job – the sides of the milk bucket are frozen by the time I get to the house.
Straining: You definitely need a strainer. I had thought we could get by without one – after all, WE were using a closed system! – but…even the milk from the milker has hair in it. :gag: Not as much as the open bucket does, of course, but still…..
Some people say to use cheesecloth. I tried…it missed a lot of the smaller dirt particles. I tried a coffee filter – it took FOREVER, and spilled a lot of milk out of it. I broke down and bought a real one from Caprine Supply – and Man, what a difference! It catches Everything – and I mean everything! If you don’t want to spend the $$ on it…you can take 2 funnels, cut the end off of one of them, put a strainer pad in the whole one, put the cut one on top, and go from there. DO use the real pads, though – they strain the milk quickly and catch everything.
Right now, we’re storing the milk in quart size canning jars. I have some food-safe plastic gallon jugs we’ll be using once production warrants it. We’re looking for a 2nd fridge to put the milk and eggs in – there is just NO room in our household fridge for all the stuff our critters are producing.
Teel deer: You don’t need all the expensive stuffs the books and some forums say you need. For household use, all you really need is:
1. Container to milk in – either stainless or food-grade plastic – that’ll fit under your goat(s). What works for my Nubians won’t work for your Mini-Manchas.
2. Baby wipes to pre-clean the udders and teats (1 per goat, of course!) IF you buy the Nolvasan S, you can take a roll of paper towels, cut them in half (so they’re about the width/height of toilet paper), plunk them into a coffee can (WITH a lid) and fill the can with the diluted solution. For me, it’s easier to buy baby wipes.
3. Something for the first squirt or 2 to go into – a lid will work just fine
4. Some way to track production. I use a digital scale and a printed off spreadsheet. You could just estimate it – Mocha filled a pint jar this AM, Annie filled a pint with 1.5 cups extra – but you need to be consistent.
5. Strainer. MUST have at least the real filters – they are fantastic!
6. Teat dip cup. I have the non-return ones from Hamby Dairy – you can use a Dixie cup and toss it after each goat.
7. Something to store the milk in.
That’s it – the necessities. A stand is a necessity for ME, but might not be for you. We’ve also found a radio to be a necessity – we have it tuned to the local Classical station, and it seems to help the does get into the mood.
If you're going to be milking before sunrise/after sunset, you'll need some form of light. We have the skylight in the milkroom, which helps, but doesn't give enough light at 4:30 AM. Solar lights have a weird color, to my eyes...right now we're using a flashlight to light up the room. I've got an oil lantern coming (like what the Amish use), so we'll see how that works.
I wish someone had told me this – I’d have saved a lot of money. :sigh: Still…..Sweet Geek uses the milker, so that’s good. (His hands are really too big to hand-milk our teeny-teated Nubians. LaDue, however, has bigger teats – he’ll be able to do her with no problem. :lol:)
Also - it's Snowing. Again. NOT normal for this time of year!