The Road Home

The Road Home
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Milking the Goats - Part of Our Daily Harvest

There are about as many different ways to milk animals as there are people. This is the way we do it.

We start off with boiling water. We use this on everything that comes in contact with the milk - the bucket, jar, lid, funnel and clothes pins.

Clothes pins? I'm sure you're wondering what clothes pins have to do with milking. We use plastic clothes pins to hold up the coffee filter. They stand up better than wooden ones with daily immersion in boiling water.

Sound confusing? We try to do things as economically as possible. We filter our milk with coffee filters that you can buy in large quantities from a warehouse market. It's cheaper than the specialty filters that go with our funnel.

We started off with a regular canning funnel, then we got this type of funnel that is made for specialty filters, but we use the coffee filters. We still use the clothes pins, because the filter tends to slide down into the funnel when you pour in the milk.

Okay. So back to the boiling water. After we disinfect all of the milk handling equipment, we're ready to go. Some milk buckets come with lids or you can buy them separately. None of our buckets have lids, but we have found that a cake pan - now don't laugh - and a regular skillet lid, fit on our milk buckets perfectly. The cake pan has an added benefit, too. We use it to carry the rag for washing udders.

                    Now we are ready to head to the barn.

Here is our set up. Frank built the milk stand so it would be a good height for sitting in a chair. This is more comfortable for me. We put cement blocks at the end of the stand for the goats to step up on.

I find it very interesting that within a few weeks of beginning a new milking routine, when new kids are born, the does learn the order in which they are milked. I am milking three does now and feeding one young doe separately. They all know when it is 'their turn'. First up is One Stripe, my favorite. The goats get to eat while they are being milked.

The first step in milking is to clean the udder. I use an udder wash on an old wash cloth. I buy the udder wash by the gallon. It is diluted 1/4 teaspoon per 5 cups of water and will last for years. Still, we try to conserve. 

So I put the wash in an old soap bottle to control how much I pour onto the cloth. I wash the teats, the udder and rub under the stomach area to clean off any dirt or grass so it won't fall into the milk bucket. We have friends that milk goats and cows. None of them use the udder wash - they use a bucket of warm, soapy water to clean udders. One of them uses boiling water on their buckets and jars and one uses only hot, soapy water. Everyone has their own way of doing things.

The first stream of milk from the teat always goes into a strip cup, which is just a cup with a fine strainer in the lid. This allows a visual check for mastitis or other problems with the milk and clears the end of the teat of any debris or bacteria that   could affect the quality of the milk.

Now we are ready to milk. Explaining or even showing someone how to milk is difficult. Experience, in this case, is definitely the best teacher. One thing I have learned is to be careful not to hold onto the teat too high up or close to the udder,
because you will pinch some of the udder tissue causing pain to the goat and sometimes blood in the milk. If you get blood in the milk it will not hurt you, but it looks really gross. It will settle to the bottom of the jar, so you can tell if it is there. That milk always goes to the dog at our house!

Since I am milking three goats, I bring one 'milking' bucket and another bucket to hold all of the milk. I pour the milk into the extra bucket after I finish milking each doe. That way my bucket is not too full, and if one of
the goats kicks or decides to put their foot in the bucket that day, all of the milk is not ruined.

Frank built this little shelf to hold the milking supplies and my extra milk bucket. It's great!

 As I milk, I 'bump' the doe's udder to stimulate them to let down their milk. This is imitating what the kids do when they nurse. It is surprising how much extra milk you can get at the end of the milking when you bump them a few more times. This last milk or stripping has most of the cream in it, so you want to take all you can. It also keeps the doe producing as much milk as possible. If you leave any, she will reabsorb it and it will 'program' her body to only make as much as you take. 

When I finish milking a doe, I use a teat dip. This is an iodine solution that helps to close up the orifice in the teat to prevent debris and bacteria entering in and causing infection or mastitis.

Then the goat jumps off the stand and goes back into their part of the barn. It takes a little bit of time to train the goats what to do in the milking routine, but once they learn it, it becomes just that - routine - and they do it very well.
We take the milk back to the house after we finish milking all three does. The quicker the milk is strained, chilled and refrigerated, the better the quality of the milk. After we strain the milk, we set the jars in buckets of cold tap water to chill it. This helps it to cool off quicker than putting it directly into the frig. After we have finished chilling the milk, we pour the water into the washing machine. We used to pour it down the drain, but it seemed like such a waste of water.

We do not pasteurize our milk. Many of the nutrients contained in fresh, whole milk are destroyed or diminished in the pasteurization process and we prefer whole, raw milk. We do not sale, barter or give away our raw milk. It is solely for our consumption - except what the dog, chickens and garden get.

Milking animals is an every day job - day in and day out - rain or shine - hot or cold - once or twice a day - depending on what routine you choose. It can be a very peaceful time of harvesting part of your daily nourishment, or a chore and a burden. The milk is wonderful, fresh and nutritious. And then sometimes you are overrun with milk and don't have enough time or energy to produce something with it. 

This is a life style that not many people choose to live. It is a lot of work and I love it!

Until next time - Fern


  1. I like your milk bucket lids! It's great to see how you try to make things last and get the most for your money. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Do you know if you can make cheese from previously frozen milk? I was wondering if someone had times when they were overrun with milk if they could freeze it and work with it later when they didn't have as much milk available.

    1. Good question. I don't know. We freeze milk, but have never tried to make cheese out of it after it is thawed. Last year when we froze the milk we left the cream in it and it changed the consistency. It tasted yucky, but the dog liked it. This year we skimmed the cream before we froze it. We haven't thawed and tried it yet.
      As a side note, we also tried canning milk. It was ultra yucky to drink because the sugars in the milk caramelized. It was kind of like evaporated milk, okay to cook with or feed the dog but too yucky to drink.
      Thank you for your question.