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goat health & husbandry information

Home dairying and cheesemaking

Milking Process,
Equipment & Sanitation

First I'd like to point out that the following is the way I do things and  I am not saying that this is the only way it can be done.

Before your milker (goat or cow) freshens, is the time to gather together all the equipment you'll need for proper, clean milking.  I try to save money whenever possible but I have found that milking equipment is not the place to skimp.  To make quality dairy products, you must start with quality milk, and to get quality milk you need the proper tools.

In this column I thought I'd walk you through the entire milking process and list the necessary equipment, as we need it.  But first I'd like to discuss how to sterilize your equipment.  I know that if your kitchen is anything like mine, it's immaculately clean (ha ha ha)... but still you have to remember that when handling milk and milk products you must sterilize everything that comes in contact with the milk.  This concept, may put you off at first (it did me) but it is very important.  If you do not sterilize, you run the risk of contamination, which can mean spoiled or bad tasting milk and ruined dairy products.

It is not difficult or complicated to sterilize.  I use Clorox bleach; yes there is a difference in bleaches and Clorox, in my humble opinion, is the best.  Clorox has good quality control and it is formulated in a way that it won't your burn your skin quite as easily as cheaper bleaches.  Use plain ol' Regular Clorox Bleach, not the scented kinds.

To create my sterilizing solution  I fill up one side of my two sided sink with water and add 1/4 Cup of bleach for every 2 gallons of water.  Let whatever needs to be sterilized sit in the water at least 2 minutes, then let drain and evaporate for at least 15 minutes before using.  The chlorine in the bleach dissipates during this evaporation time and will not effect your cheesemaking.

You can also sterilize all your equipment by boiling, but this takes more time and energy (and is just too doggone hot in the summer).  The sink full o' bleach water method is convenient because you can use the same water to sterilize your morning milking stuff, then use it for the day's cheese or yogurt making equipment (including the cheesecloth- it helps keep it nice and white).  You can even use this left over sterilizing water for sterilizing canning stuff as you get ready to can the bounty from your garden.  I sterilize my big 4 gallon cheese pot by adding a couple inches of water and bringing it to a rolling boil with the lid on for at least 5 minutes.  This steam sterilizes the pot and lid.

Now let's get down to milking equipment.  The most important item is your seamless stainless steel pail and lid.  You must make sure it is seamless because it is impossible to get a seamed bucket clean.  Also, stainless steel is a must; it is the easiest to clean, stands up to daily scrubbing and will last a lifetime.  If you are milking more than one doe, you may want to also use a milk tote.  I use two seamless stainless steel 4 qt. totes w/ lids along with my 6 qt. stainless pail.  You'll also want a strip cup to check the milk before you start milking.

Get the doe up on your milkstand, or tether your cow, and give her some grain to keep her happy.  I occasionally use a Goat Hobble so I do not have to worry about "nervous milkers" putting their foot in the bucket.  It's a real life saver, eases a lot of frustration and can save on a lot of tears. I actually don't start milking my does until two weeks after they've kidded because the milk may contain colostrum, which does not taste so great, for up to two weeks after kidding. I usually like to let the kids have all the milk the first two weeks. I just let the kids have all the milk until it starts tasting sweet and delicious.  Be sure to taste the milk to see when it's usable for your needs.  It is a good idea to have shaved the doe's udder before the first time you milk (we always give our does prekidding hair cuts, see Prenatal Care).  This will keep your milk cleaner, and just all around make things easier (you won't have to worry about pulling her hairs as you milk).

 You need to wash your doe, or cow's, udder before you milk her and dip her teats after.  You can buy all kinds of products to do this with, but I have found it's cheaper and easier to use bleach (Clorox).  Yes, not only can you use bleach to sanitize your milking utensils, but you can also use it to wash your doe's udder and dip her teats.  Bleach is very effective in controlling and preventing mastitis (an inflammation of the mammary gland caused by bacteria).  And interestingly enough, I have found that my homemade bleach wash made with Clorox is gentler on my doe's udders them commercial products.  I have not had a case of "udder pox" or mastitis since I've started using Clorox udderwash/teat dip.  Please do not use cheaper bleach for the wash, it will be harsher on your and your doe's skin.

Click here for a teat dip & udder wash recipe

Make only enough of this wash/dip for each milking.  It does not keep.  The bleach disperses fairly quickly and you can't guarantee the mixture's sanitizing strength/ability after a few hours.  To make an udder wash/teat dip just mix:

To use, wash udder with wash/dip and wipe dry with a clean paper towel. Milk the goat. After milking, dip the teats in the teat dip and let "air dry".


Wash your doe or cows's udder well with your udder wash and dry with a disposable paper towel.  Never place a "soiled" towel back in the wash.  This will help keep the wash clean and reduce the risk of spreading any "nasties" from animal to animal.  Now squirt the first three squirts of milk (from each teat) into your strip cup to check for any abnormalities (such as clots or blood).  Now milk out the doe into the pail. See How to Milk.  

After you've milked her out remove the pail, cover it and put it aside.  Now, dip her teats.  You may have seen "teat dip" in a spray, but to be honest, my does hate the spray and I try to keep the milking time a pleasant experience for everyone.  Also, I think you get better coverage with the real dip.  For a teat dip cup I use disposable 3 oz. "Dixie" cups I buy at Sam's for $5 for 500.  I'm not usually a big fan of disposable things, but when it comes to milking, disposable can be a good thing.  Disposable means less chances of spreading any contaminates that may be lurking and waiting to spoil your milk or give your doe mastitis.

Now, if you're a good record keeper, you should weigh the milk on a good scale  and record on your milk record sheet.  It is standard practice to measure milk by weight (pounds) as opposed to volume (gallons).  You may not think you care about keeping this kind of record, but you'll be surprised at how useful it is.  You will be able to track any drop in production that may be an indicator of some health problem that you may miss other wise.

If you're milking more than one doe, you may now transfer the milk from the pail to your tote, and continue on with your milking.  After the milking, you need to chill the milk as quickly as possible, so get yourself back to the kitchen ASAP.

Once you get the milk back to the kitchen, you can do one of two things. You can either pasteurize your milk or you can keep it in its raw state.  I never pasteurize our milk. I don't pasteurize for cheesemaking; I don't pasteurize for drinking. I figure, if I am going through all this trouble to produce my own milk, why ruin it by pasteurizing? Please see more info on raw milk by clicking here. Properly handled raw milk will keep for over a week in the fridge and, if frozen, will last over a year in the freezer. Whether you pasteurize or not depends on you and what you plan to do with your milk.  This is a matter of personal taste and opinion.  Remember, in this column I am discussing what I do, I am not saying it is what you should do.  If you have healthy goats and handle you milk properly, I see no reason for pasteurization.  I will now continue this column assuming you are going to keep your milk in its raw state.

You should have your milk storage containers with lids sterilized and waiting for you at the house.  I think glass is the best for milk storage because it's easily cleaned and sterilized.  I now use 2 qt. and gallon glass jars, though I used to use 1 qt. wide mouth mason jars.  I liked the wide mouth mason jars very much, but now I have so much milk to store, I've had to switch to the bigger jars.

Place your sterilized milk strainer w/ disposable milk filters over your storage jars and pour in the milk.  I then put the lids on the jars and place them in the freezer to chill them as quickly as possible.  Don't forget to remove the jars in a couple of hours; you don't want them to freeze solid and explode all over your freezer.  Leave at least 1 inch head space in your jars just in case you do forget them in the freezer (this will keep them from exploding).

Now it's time to wash up.  First, rinse everything with warm (not hot) water.  This helps keep milk stone from forming.  Milk stone is a very hard deposit that forms when the protein in the milk sets and it is very difficult to remove.  After you've rinsed with the warm water you may then wash everything with hot soapy water.  I then sterilize everything and let them air dry.

Click here for a list of milking, goat and cheese related suppliers.

Basic milking equipment:

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