You will need the following items whether you will be milking by hand or with a machine. All of these things can be purchased through goat supply companies, but in some cases you can make your own or come up with creative substitutes that cost less.
Don’t skip this one! Someone once bought a perfectly trained milk goat from me and then complained that she was having problems milking the doe. After a discussion, I realized the woman did not have a milk stand. There are a few sweet goats in this world that will let you milk them anywhere, but you need to use a milk stand for most goats, especially if you are a beginner. Trying to milk without a stanchion will lead to fighting with the doe, which sets you up for failure when you do put her on a milk stand because she’s had a negative experience with milking. Goats have great memories, so you want to start out right.
You can buy a fancy metal milk stand, or you can make a wooden one using scrap wood you find around your farm. Commercially made metal milk stands are nice because the deck is metal mesh, so when you spill milk on it (and you will spill milk), the milk stand doesn’t become slippery. Wooden milk stands get very slippery when they’re wet. The big difference between the two, of course, is price. A professionally made metal one is a few hundred dollars, whereas you can make one for a fraction of that price or even free if you have some spare wood.
The height of the milk stand is important. It should be short enough for the goat to jump up on it but high enough for you to sit comfortably next to it and milk the goat. Commercial milking parlors usually have very high milking stands, which goats can access by walking up a ramp, and the humans stand behind the does to connect the inflations from the milking machine. If you have back problems, this is probably the best option so that you are not bending and twisting your back too much.
The bucket should be stainless steel and seamless for ease of cleaning. You don’t want any cracks or seams in the bucket where bacteria can hide. A six-quart bucket works well for most standard goats, but you’ll want a shorter one for Nigerians. Milking machines do not get the udder completely milked out, so a milk bucket is still needed for hand milking to empty the udder. (If you are milking several goats, you’ll want a milk tote to collect all the milk in.)
An official strip cup is a stainless steel container with a wire mesh filter that sits on the top. The filter alerts you to chunky milk (a symptom of mastitis) before you start milking. However you can use a repurposed tin can or an old coffee cup. The strip cup is used to collect the first few squirts of milk from each teat. Research has shown that the first squirts contain a larger amount of bacteria. We give this milk to the barn cats after milking.
You can buy disposable udder wipes or baby wipes for cleaning the udder. Some people use a bucket of warm, soapy water and actually wash the udder. We simply use a warm washcloth. Whatever cloth or wipe you decide to use, a clean one must be used for each doe so that you don’t spread germs.
Iodine is used in organic dairies to dip teats, but there are also chemical teat dips and sprays available. If you use a dip, you’ll need something to hold it in. Old-fashioned film canisters or prescription pill bottles work well. If you will be letting the does out to be with their kids after milking, you don’t have to use a teat dip because the kids will be nursing through the day. The purpose of the teat dip is to sanitize the end of the teat as it closes up during the 15 or 20 minutes following milking. This doesn’t happen when a doe is nursing kids because kids nurse so often. The frequent nursing reduces the risk for infection as it keeps milk flowing out of the teat, which continually flushes out bacteria.
Goat hair and dust will inevitably wind up in your milk bucket, so you’ll want to filter the milk before storing it. Filters are disposable. Cheesecloth stretched over the top of the bucket while milking also works as a filter, but you’ll need to wash and boil the cheesecloth between uses to keep it sanitary.
You probably already have plenty of things in your house to use for milk storage, such as a pitcher with a lid or canning jars with plastic lids. We also use carafes and old-fashioned milk bottles and cover the tops with aluminum foil. If you don’t cover the container, the milk will develop an off taste and a dry film on the top.
This is an excerpt from Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More, 2nd Revised Edition by Deborah Niemann, which will be published September 2018.
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