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How to Milk a Goat

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Some common questions regarding milking goats:

How long does it take to milk a goat?
How many hand squeezes does it take to milk a goat?

As long as it takes... as many as it takes....

There is absolutely no set number for this because there can be so many variables. Each individual doe is different which leads to several determining factors such as:

  • How much milk the doe has
  • the size of her teats
  • the size of her orifices (hole in her teats)
  • the experience/skill of the person milking the goat
  • the behavior of the doe in the stand

..... a doe that might take one person 5 minutes to milk could take another person 1/2 an hour to milk.

 

How to milk a goat:

It's not rocket science. Milking a goat is fairly simple; people of all experience levels and ages have been doing it since the dawn of history.  If they can do it, so can you.

First, what not to do:

  • Do not pull down on the teat. People hand milking cows sometimes pull down on the teat.  If you do this with goats, you can damage their udder.  Just manipulate the milk out of the teat without pulling down.
  • Do not yank on the teat, for the same reasons stated above.
  • Do not squeeze the udder, just squeeze the teats.
  • Try not to get frustrated.  When you are first staring out, this can be hard, but remember, the goat will pick up on your "vibes" and she may get impatient if you are upset.  Be calm and this will help keep her calm.

Getting to know the udder:

You should learn the proper terms for the parts of the udder so that you can better understand the instructions that follow.

The Udder:  The whole organ is called the UDDER.  This is singular.  A goat has ONE udder, they do not have not "udders".

Udder Side or Half:  The udder is separated into compartments.  A goat's udder has two compartments known as Sides or Halves. (A cow has four compartments and these are referred to as "Quarters".)

Attachments: This is the term for the ligaments and such that hold the udder onto the goat. There are "rear attachments" and "fore attachments".   These are important because "good attachments" hold the udder up high to the body (desirable) as opposed to "poor" or "bad" attachments that let the udder hang down low (not desirable).  Low hanging udders are in danger of getting caught on objects and getting damaged and injured (I have seen udders with bad attachment get tore open).  Udders with poor attachments also do not hold up to long term heavy milking as well as udders with better attachments.  I'll put some photos of good udder attachment up on this site very soon.

Teat:  That's the appendage protruding from each side of the Udder that you squeeze to get the milk to come out.  Teats can be all shapes and sizes.  They can be long, short, thin or fat.  There can be a definite distinction of where the udder stops and the teat begins (this is more desirable in choosing and breeding), or the teat and udder can almost seam to be one and the same (not really good in terms of choosing and breeding, but still milkable). The size of the teat will effect how easy it is and how long it will take to milk a goat.

Orifice: This is the hole at the end of the teat that the milk comes out of.  The orifice can vary in size.  The size of the orifice will effect how easy and how long it takes to milk the goat.  Usually it is a good size and milk comes out in a reasonable manner.  Occasionally you get a doe with small orifices and she will take longer to milk.  There is really nothing that can be done about does with tiny orifices, you just have to face the fact they take longer to milk. If you are buying a goat to milk, you may want to milk her before buying her to check the size of her orifices   I usually don't even bother milking does with tiny holes 'cause my hands ache by the time I get through milking them, but since I have a lot of does, I have the luxury that I can pick and choose which does I want to milk. 

To Start:

First, read the information here: Milking Procedure and Sanitation

Now, think about what you are doing and trying to do.   You are trying to move the milk out of the teat by manipulating it down through the teat and out the orifice (and hopefully into your bucket).  

To do this you must:

  1. Close of the top of the teat.
  2. Squeeze the teat starting at the top and move the squeezing motion down the teat, thus moving the milk down the teat and out.
  3. Take your time and don't get frustrated.  Speed and aim will come with practice.
  4. Stop thinking and worrying and just milk the goat.  
    • This is really important... don't over think..., as Larry so bluntly put it when he was learning, "Just milk the damn goat."  He was over thinking and getting frustrated and finally realized, just stop thinking and milk the goat.  After that is when he started to really get it.

 

The Glove Lesson:

Some goats are more patient than others and so I developed a way to learn and practice milking a goat without the goat.  This will give you the basic feel of what to do and give you an opportunity to practice your technique.

There is not real right or wrong way to milk as long as you are getting the milk out of the goat without injuring them.  I tend to milk with just three fingers, holding my pinky back.  This is because I have really big hands and my pinky would get milk all over it.  When I am milking a goat with really small teats, I may milk with just two fingers.  You should milk however you are comfortable and what works for you.

Fill a strong disposable glove with water and tie it off.

Now you have a practice udder with different sized teats to learn on.  By squeezing the glove, you can make the "teat" bigger.

 

Please note that in the following photos I am manipulating the glove with one hand while taking the photo with the other hand.  I have to lay the glove down on the desk so I can take the photos.  When you practice, you will hold the glove in one hand and manipulate with the other.

Hold the glove in one hand.

Place your hand up against the udder. 

Right where the teat meets the udder, place your thumb and index finger, and use them to close off the teat from the udder.

When you squeeze the teat, you wan the milk to go toward the orifice of the teat and not back into the udder.

First tighten your index finger and as that tightens, start tightening your middle finger.

You are moving the milk down the teat. With the real teat that has an orifice, the milk will start coming out.  In the case on the glove udder, the water is moving into the tip of the "teat" and causing pressure.  Since you are holding the glove with your other hand, you will be able to feel if the water is "back washing" into the glove.  If you can feel water "back washing"... moving back into the glove... you are not closing the top of the teat off enough.

See now I have tightened all the fingers that I use when milking and am holding my pinky off to the side.  Remember I have huge hands so you may be able to use all your fingers.  There is not right or wrong here.

You can see the tip to the "teat" enlarging as the pressure increasing.  If I were milking a real goat, I would be getting a nice strong stream of milk.

One final good squeeze and I can see that all the milk has been moved to the tip of the teat.  If I were milking a real goat, the teat would now be empty of milk.  I have completed one squeeze

Now, release all your fingers, including the index and thumb and allow more milk to move into the teat. (In this case with this glove, the milk in the tip moves back into the "teat" and in a real goat,who's teat is now empty, the milk will fill from the udder into the teat.

Repeat, repeat, repeat....

In the case of a real goat, keep going until the udder is pretty much empty

Where to sit:

You can milk standing up or sitting down.  You can use a stand or not, but I'll tell you, it is much easier and much more comfortable to milk with the aid of a milk stand. A stand will hold the does head in the headgate, keeping her steady and in one place and brings the udder to a comfortable level for you to sit and milk. Click here for plans on how to build a milkstand.

You can sit on either side of the doe, reaching under her belly to milk, or even sit behind the doe and milk from between her legs if you wanted to.  There is no set rule but is it most common to milk from the right side.

I milk from the goat's right side.  I place my chair next to the milkstand on the right side of the doe near her shoulder area and sit facing toward the doe's udder/rear area.  I will reach under the doe's belly with my right hand to milk her left side and milk her right side with my left hand.

Preparing to milk

Please read this page: Milking Procedure, Sanitation & Equipment

Getting Rhythm

There is no set rule on how you must milk.

Normally milking is done with both hands in an alternating right, left, right, left sort of pattern.  The nice thing about doing it this way is while you squeeze the left teat, the right is filling and then when you squeeze the the right teat the left is filling.  Using this rhythm gives you a built in "teat filling period".  With this pattern, you get the classic "squirt squirt squirt" rhythm that comes to mind when you think of someone hand milking. 

Though.... you could milk both teats at the same time squeezing at the same time if you wanted to, but then you have to pause to let the teats fill.

No one says you must milk with both hands and milk both teats at the same time.  You could milk out one side completely, by squeezing, letting fill, squeezing, etc, until the side is empty, and then switch to the other side.  Of course milking this way will take twice as much time. 

I milk with both hands in the classic pattern of left, right,t left, right.  Because my right hand is stronger than my left, I usually finish milking the left side before the right is done.  When this happens I usually finish milking the right side with my right hand.  By the time the right is done the left has accumulated some more milk, so I'll do a few more squeezes of the left side, and then a few more on the right. 

Finishing off

Once I get to the point that the doe feels pretty much out of milk, I do like a kid and "bump her bag".  Bag bumping is how the kids tells their mom to let down her milk,  She may be holding back on you and so you can gently bump her bag in a manner similar to a kid to naturally tell her to give up some more milk, if she has anymore.  Kids can be kind of ruff in their demands for milk.  Watch them nursing sometimes and see how they bump at their mother's udder.  I never bump as hard as a kid and the doe still lets her milk down for me.

The way I "bump" the bag is in a sort of pushing, massaging way.  I cup the udder in my full hand with the heal of my hand resting on the udder right below where it attaches to the belly and in front of the teats.  This puts the heal of my hand in the same spot the kid's forehead hits when they bump their mom. I then massage the udder a little with my full hand and then push up a few times, with the heal of my hand, in a bag bumping motion on her udder.  I then return to milking.  I then "bump her bag" again and milk out what is left.   Sometimes you can really feel the milk being let down.  Sometimes the doe may have let all her milk down while you were milking.  Every doe is different.

When the sides are pretty much all milked out you are done.  I just stop, dip the teats (see teat dip).  I never worry about getting every last drop out because the doe is constantly making milk and the moment I am done milking, she is already making more. 

What about "Stripping the Teat" to finish off milking?

You sometimes hear about "stripping" the last milk out of the teat. I NEVER do this because it involves pulling the teats and I feel it is unnecessary and could possibly damage the udder. I have never had a case of mastitis caused by not stripping out the last of the milk and I have been milking goats since 1995.  I milk until I pretty much cannot get any more milk out, and then I just stop and dip the teats (see teat dip). 

 

 

 

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How to milk a goat