Proverbs 27:27 And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hand Milking 101

There are many ways to keep and raise goats.  Many ways to milk and lots of different equipment that can be used.  I don’t know everything but will attempt to explain what we use and what works best for us in our situation on our farm. 
I guess the first thing you need to have available, if you are going to hand milk, is a goat in lactation or referred to as one that has freshened.  Is in milk.  As far as equipment at the very least you will need something to milk into and something to store the milk in afterward.  Some goats are harder to milk than others.  Some have longer teats and that can help make it easier for a first time hand milker.  I have found the easiest goats to milk are ones with a good temperament, long enough teats to get at least two to three fingers on, a good width around of the teat and a good sized orifice (hole) at the end. 
Our milk stand.  My dad built it 14 years ago. I paint it every once in a while and replace the rubber mat.  It has been wonderful for milking.  The upside down laundry soap bucket by it has been my milking stool for all those years as well!  How's that for recycle and being green!

When one is milking it is a good idea to have some tools.  The first thing is a milk pail or pan that is used exclusively for that purpose.  I try to always use stainless steel pans and equipment as they hold up well, are easy to keep clean and don’t hold any odor or taste from old milk or soap residue.  I can keep them very clean. 

Most people milk into a pan or pail and then bring it into the house and strain the milk thru something to remove any small amount of hair or dust that has fallen in while milking.  Some people use a funnel and a rewashable cotton cloth or just the cloth alone.  Some people use a special strainer that you order disposable round micro filter pads for and they put the strainer on a jar and pour the milk right thru the strainer and into a jar ( I did  it that way for years)  One lady I met put a huge cotton cloth over her milk pail and put a huge rubber band around it to keep it from falling in and milked thru it.  It totally kept anything from falling into the milk as it was strained as the goat was being milked.  Great idea.  But I don’t like to wash and reuse cloths for my milk and don't need the extra work.  What I do now is put my strainer with disposable micro filter pad right on my pail and milk into it.  It strains while I milk and keeps the milk very clean. 
 This is my milk pail, strainer, disposable micro filter and plug that holds the filter in place. I will assemble it in the next few pictures to show how it looks when I go out to the barn to milk
Once I have my milk pail and strainer assembled nothing can fall into my milk while milking.  Thru the years this is the best and easiest way I have found to do it.  Now I go out to the barn to milk.
Word travels fast that you have warm milk in the barn twice a day.  All of a sudden you have a lot of friends that show up from everywhere.  I have quite a fan club and I am never alone while in the barn milking.  :) 
I get out the goat I am going to milk and put her in the station with her feed.  She happily eats while I milk.  I also always hobble my goats feet.  Even though my goats behave very well on the milk stand I have had several times when I didn't hobble and a stray fly made them stomp their foot or kick and over goes the milk.  I know the saying don't cry over spilled milk. Who ever said that didn't work hard for every squirt of that milk!  Next it is a good idea to wash the udder.  I keep our udders shaved to keep it as clean as possible.  To keep dirt and such from sticking to hair.  I used to bring out a bucket of soapy warm water to do this but soon grow tired of all the work involved.  So now I keep a tub of scentless baby wipes out in the barn and just wipe the udder down well with those.   
 After washing down the udder one needs to express one or two squirts of milk out of each teat into a stripping cup.(If you don't know how to milk at all refer to the next paragraph first)  I used to use a stripping cup years ago.  It is a cup with a little screen on the top to inspect the first few squirts.  To check for lumps or anything that might be indicating an infection.  Also the first few squirts gets what ever was in the end of the teat out (any bacteria) and not into your milk bucket. As I said, I used to use a striping cup but now just do the first few squirts into the baby wipe I just wiped the udder down with.  It is a white baby wipe and I can easily see if there is a clump or off color milk or blood. (see after years of milking how lazy I have gotten)

Now how do you squirt the milk out?  How do you hand milk?  If you think about an udder, it makes and stores the milk.  The teats hang down from the udder and have a sphincter band around the top of it that helps it hold its shape to the udder.  When you milk you don’t want to get higher than that band it is where the teat attaches to the udder.  If you squeeze udder tissue or have the milk back flush up into the udder you are asking for trouble.  If you actually milk on the part where the teat attaches to the udder, right on the sphincter band you can blow a teat.  That means that the teat will not look like a nice neat teat hanging down anymore.  It will look more like the wide part of a funnel where it attaches to the udder.  You will no longer see a nice definition from udder to teat.  It will all be one now.  It can lead to mastitis. 

Gently clamping off the milk from going back into the udder with my pointer finger and thumb, you hold this clamped shut till all the milk is squeezed out of the teat. Then you would just use the rest of your fingers on that hand to squeeze out the milk while keeping it gently clamped at the top with your thumb and pointer finger.  Release all fingers so the teat can refill and gently clamp again. (In the picture above I am using my right hand and doing the same with my left hand below.) 
So the teats are like empty small balloons with a hole in the very tip or end.  In order to get the milk out you have to gently pinch off the top of the teat with your thumb and pointer finger to keep the milk from going back up into the udder and then use your other fingers to squeeze the milk out the hole in the bottom. 

Don’t worry about getting milk all over your hand or how fast you milk right now.  You want quality over quantity as you are training your brain and want it to be trained right.  You will get neater and faster as you do it more.  Just concentrate on making sure you keep the teat closed off from the top as you gently use your other fingers to squeeze out the milk.  clamp off milk flow with pointer and thumb, gently squeeze milk out with the rest of your fingers. release.  clamp off milk flow with pointer and thumb, gently squeeze milk out with the rest of your fingers. release. 

 Once your goat is milked out you massage the udder a little to bring down the last bit in there and milk that out.  Then take the end of your pointer finger and tip of your thumb and gently pinch off the top of the teat and gently pull to the end where the hole is.  It will get the last few drips out and is called stripping.  Don’t do this more than a few times as it can irritate and harm the teat if done to much.  Once or twice will get it all out if you milked the goat out well. I know this looks terrible but she is an old milk goat and has very good soft pliable skin on her udder.  Trust me I am being gentle and she doesn't even move.

Then most people use a teat dip of some sort.  When a baby goat nurses they leave a little saliva on the teat that dries and protects the end of the teat from germs going up into the udder and causing infection.  Teat dip disinfects and the coolness of it helps to close the orifice the milk was forced to come out of to help protect against infection.  I no longer use teat dip but use a spray made especially for this purpose.  It is inexpensive, lasts a long time and is always clean when it comes out of the can. 
After I finish milking the goat and spray her teats I put her back up with the herd and get my milk into the house to get it refrigerated quickly.  

 I take off the strainer and pour the clean milk that has already been strained while milking into a clean jar and put it in the fridge.   

There are all kinds of washing soaps especially for milking equipment. I have just used regular dish soap and water for all the years I have been milking and have never had a build of or calcification or anything on any of my equipment.  

Well there you have it.  Nice, clean, good, fresh, goats milked that is ready to be used any way you wish.  I hoped this all made sense or at least was interesting.  :)  Happy Milking!

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