Self Reliance Challenge: Milking a Goat

Milking a Goat

I put off milking my goats for a long time. At first, I told myself, well, we only have Boers and they’re not known for milk production. Then we moved into Nubians, and my first argument fell flat.

This is the first year my Nubians kidded. I let them wean their kids and then I tiptoed over the idea of milking. After all, Nubians are dairy goats. I should use them for their merits.

I tried Buttercup, who only had one kid and always seemed full of milk, but as soon as I put the milk machine on her, she refused to let any milk down. I could hand-milk her all day long, but with arthritic hands I knew that couldn’t be a long-term solution.

I turned my sights on Toffee (renamed, Brownie). She’s always been the most docile of our goats and the one who gets bullied most. Weeks earlier, after we noticed the others were pushing her away from the feed trough, we started feeding her separately and outside the pen so she could browse while we were busy elsewhere. The extra attention has made her especially gentle.

Not only did she take to the milking machine, but even after weaning two kids, she was giving me a quart-and-a-half of milk every day.

Here’s where the fear comes in.

Was I doing it right?
Was I sterilizing teats and equipment enough?
Am I milking enough to empty her udder?

To be honest I’m still not sure when enough is enough. I’ve watched You Tube videos on milking, but unless you get real hands on experience, you never really know if you did it right.

Even now, I worry I leave too much milk in her bag (the udder). I milk her on the machine until nothing else will pour, and then I hand milk to make sure no milk is left in her teats.

But here’s my question: Is she really milked out for the day or am I not deliberate enough with my technique to make sure she’s nearly empty? I do make sure there’s no milk in the teats and her udder is flabby when I’m done. Only experience will tell for sure.

All of this becomes academic until you bring in the possibility of mastitis, which is an inflammation of the udder. This, in my view is where it becomes a matter of becoming an expert very quickly.

Greg helps me when I milk. Next year I hope he’ll build me a special stall where I can milk without distractions and in any weather. Greg’s not very patient with the animals and sometimes he hurries me when I need to take time to assess everyone. I worry that I might miss a small detail about an animal’s health. I don’t want that to happen with my dairy goats.

This year is an experiment in milking. My initial plan was to make soap. Many of the soap recipes I’ve read asked for frozen milk because it has less chance of scorching when it’s introduced to the lye.

I found several different recipes for soap making. Some recipes called for 11 ounces, others called for 16 or 18 ounces. I’m not sure yet which recipe I’ll follow so I wanted to freeze the milk in increments that could be divided by two ounces.

In the meantime, I decided to be brave and make goat cheese from some fresh milk. It was fantastic! I made a very basic soft cheese with Himalayan salt, dill, and fresh grated garlic for the seasonings. As I get more confident I’ll try other cheeses and different combinations of herbs.

What I liked best about the cheese was the freshness. I could tell the difference between store bought and the one I made.

It’s a scary process to try something new. For myself, I like the challenge, but I’m always mindful of the costs to others. To that end, I’m careful with my goats’ feed and make sure they get all the nutrients they need. Bio-security is always on my mind too. My goats are in a closed herd, which means I don’t let them mingle with other goats. I also don’t bring new goats into our herd without quarantine.

I’ve been reading a weekly blog from one goat raiser who was losing newborn kids left and right–and sometimes their moms. Her vet finally tracked down the culprit. It was a copper deficiency. I can’t even imagine the agony they must’ve gone through losing so many animals all at once.

So here’s me, taking it one step at a time. I’ve been lucky, but I also try to be careful. This is why I pay attention to small details. I might not know what they mean at the time, but eventually I can piece the tidbits of information together.

Does anyone out there have experience with milking? Yes, even you moms who have breast fed. I’ve read mastitis is a real problem for human moms too.

If you’d like to follow along with the #self reliance challenge, here is a list of other bloggers who live our grand life. Click on their blogs and check them out!

AnnMarie – 15 Acre Homestead

Nancy – Nancy On The Homefront

Kathi – Oak Hill Homestead

Robin – A Life in the Wild

Candy – Candy’s Farm House Pantry

Farmgal – Just another Day on the Farm

Ashley – Practical Self Reliance

ShawnaLee – Homegrown Self Reliance

Frank – My Green Terra

Lisa Lynn, our Host – The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

 

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14 Comments

  1. I did goat for 4-H in school, raised, showed and even milked. I love how (relatively) easy goat are, compared to other animals you milk (like cows). We hand milked our two goats (and even as an in shape youth, that was tiring). They were remarkably patient with us unless we squirted milk back up into the udder because we didn’t close the top of the teat well enough. I miss having goats, but the hubs doesn’t want to be tied down to farm animals right now. You sound like you’re doing a wonderful job. Side note: goat’s milk is also good for dogs, especially as kefir. 🙂 Have you thought of churning butter? Nubians, in particular, have lots of cream in their milk.

    • Marianne: It never occurred to me to make kefir. I will definitely look into it.

      I hadn’t thought about churning butter either, but I’m going to try it with the next batch to see what I get.

      Thanks!

  2. Best wishes with milking your goats! I miss the fresh goat milk. Someday I may have them again because I really would like to have our own dairy. Our current homestead would take a lot of reworking to make the barn/coop set up properly. Since we aren’t sure if we will stay here, I haven’t wanted to make the investment.

    You will do fine! I can tell you are very attentive to your animals and that makes a huge difference!

    • Lisa: I think the pen/barn design is critical. You’ll have much less trouble later if you take the time to do what’s right for goats now. We learned a lot about fencing and how to thwart those curious minds.

      I think of all the animals we’ve raised, the goats have been the most fun.

  3. One step at a time is smart and I applaud you because I’m not sure I would have the patience to milk a goat. I tried with our cows back on the farm and said to Robert….”This isn’t happening…” I was homeschooling and doing a lot of other things at the time and just couldn’t see adding one more thing. As for Goat cheese I love it, the consistency is so different and it tastes wonderful. Love hearing about your experiences you really get it…

    • Carole: Milking was hard the first few times, but once we figured it out, the whole process is as smooth as glass. You (and the goat) learn the routine. We don’t even need the hobbles anymore. We use them just to make sure there are no accidents, but I think they’re unnecessary now.

      Milking is not hard once you find your rhythm–and you’re talking to someone with two left hands. 🙂

  4. Jenny Schwartz

    I’ve never milked a goat (and have no ambition to try), but a friend’s mom kept goats when I was growing up and I remember her one piece of wisdom – use a wooden bucket. She absolutely believed metal buckets changed the taste. I’m not sure why plastic wasn’t an option.

  5. It’s a scary process to try something new. For myself, I like the challenge, –> It’s why I have so much admiration for you, Maria. Another side of the coin – or perhaps a different coin, it when you stop trying something new is the time when you begin slowly dying. And on that cheerful note 🙂

  6. I milked my Nubians for many years. “Knowing when to quit” is a matter of experience more than anything – and it doesn’t feel exactly the same on each goat. I can’t describe it or explain it either. If you have any questions though I’ll try to best to help. Good for you for making this the year to milk your goats!

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