Goat Milking

May 17, 2011 · 7 comments

This is how I begin every day. Just me, my goat, and the steady pling, pling of milk in the pail.





But let’s back up a bit…

I’m a stickler about hygiene when it comes to dairy. Pre-milking, I start out by sanitizing my supplies: milk bucket, milk strainer, jar + plastic lid, and cheese/yogurt making tools if that’s on my morning agenda. I use iodine (available at my local home brew supply store) diluted in a sink-full of water. The label has the actual dilution recommendation, but I usually just add a dollop to a couple gallons of water. Each item should have at least a full minute of contact with the iodine solution.







Then I go outside and get my goat, Bella, settled into the stanchion. She’s been shut in her own stall apart from the kids overnight, and by milking time (7:30 sharp), she’s hungry and getting a tad bit uncomfortable. She knows exactly what to do, and I usually just let her load up on the platform by herself.

The feed pan on the stanchion has her morning grain ration. I feed her about 3 pints of wet COB (corn, oats, barley with molasses) mixed with about a cup of soybean meal.







I brush her every morning to keep loose hairs to a minimum.

At this point, I go back in the house to wash my hands and get a milk bucket and clean cloth. Someday I will have a sink in the barn, but for now, I have to go back and forth from the house to the barn (about 30 feet) when I need to wash my hands.

I spray her udder with an iodine solution…

and I wipe it off with a clean cloth. Some people use baby wipes for this step.

Here’s her full udder. The skin is pulled tight but shouldn’t be hard (a sign of mastitis).







I squirt the first three shots from each teat on the ground because that milk could be contaminated with bacteria that entered into her orifice.

I grasp a teat in each hand and rhythmically squirt one and then the other. There are lots of diagrams about how you’re supposed to close your thumb and index fingers first to cut the milk supply off from the udder and then close the next fingers in a downward order to force the milk out the orifice. The reality is that you have to just try it to learn how to do it. The first time I milked a goat, I was slow, but successful. I’ve taught various people since then, and some catch on right away, but others take time and practice to get the hang of it. It really isn’t hard but does require a certain indescribable finesse. Do NOT pull on the teats. This will not get any milk out and might damage the udder. Some goats are easier to milk than others, partly because of temperament and partly because of teat and orifice size. The actual milking (for me and Bella) only takes five to ten minutes.









When her udder starts to soften, and it feels like there’s not much left, I use my fist to gently “bumb” the udder the way kids do when they want more milk. This stimulates milk “letdown” responses, and allows me to get a few last squirts. I don’t worry about milking every single drop out of her because the kids will be with her during the day, and they’ll clean up what I leave.

When I’m finished milking, I open up the headpiece.

She immediately turns around and goes back home. (The big shaved spot is from her surgery.)

As soon as the kids get access, they nurse on mom but are mostly disappointed by the lack of resources. They’re about seven weeks old now and eat plenty of hay to sustain them without nursing overnight.

One of our cats, Excavatoranddumptruck (Exy), also really likes goat milk. I have to guard my bucket and fend her off until I can whisk it back into the house.

In the kitchen, I load a single-use milk filter into my milk strainer and position it over a half-gallon canning jar. The milk gets poured through the strainer/filter to remove any stray hairs or bits of debris.







As soon as it’s done draining, I lid it and put it in the refrigerator.










Special thanks to Henry for photographing milking events.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

marni May 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm

This is so informative and fun!! Thanks for the pictures Henry!


Stephanie May 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Hi Camille! I was introduced to your Facebook/blog through your Etsy shop several months ago and I just wanted to share how much my boyfriend and I enjoy reading about your homestead. We live in Portland (transplanted to Oregon about 2 years ago from Michigan) with our dog, cat and 2 backyard chickens. We love the idea of homesteading and actually have a running half-joke with our close couple-friends about “when we buy our 20 acres together…” Even though we don’t have much space living in the city we just planted a TON of fruit and vegetables all over our yard in raised beds and pots. We’re really excited to be able to grow our own produce this year and hopefully share with our friends and neighbors. We’ve also started making our own bread, beer and roasting our own coffee. Thank you so much for providing such great inspiration for off-the-grid living!


Camille May 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Living off-the-grid is not possible or even recommended for everyone, so I’m glad you’re taking whatever small steps you can to be involved in your own sustenance. I hope my use of the word “homestead” comes across as tongue-in-cheek as I intend it to. It’s also kind of a half joke. Yes, we have a lot of cool stuff going on here, but we are by no means independent from the wider world (nor would we want to be).

Anyway, thanks for following along. It’s good to have you here!


Camille May 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm

PS Tell your friends!


Laura May 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Very informative and interesting Camille. Thanks, and thanks to Henry for the film production.


Candace May 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Loving the blog Camille! I’m enjoying being able to live vicariously through you until we can live in one place long enough to have our own goats…


Camille May 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I’m hoping someday you’ll be living HERE for long enough to get goats. Maybe?


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