Learning how to milk a goat is not a difficult process. In fact, the actual goat milking part of the homesteading chores takes only about five to 15 minutes a day.
To consistently garner a steady flow of milk, nanny goats must be milked every single day while they are lactating.
Before you can get milk from a female goat she must have become pregnant and delivered kids. A doeling or nanny goat’s body will almost never be ready to excrete milk (lactate) until she had kidded (given birth) and needs to provide milk for the baby goats.
Rarely does a condition dubbed precocious udder develop. But, when it does, a female goat can give milk without having kids.
This condition occurs when a mammary gland necessary for milk production develops either without the goat having been bred or works overtime for the stage of gestation the nanny goat is experiencing.
The precocious udder is less rare when keeping dairy goats that stem from extraordinary genetic lines.
A top-quality dairy goat is sometimes capable of “milking through” straight from one post-pregnancy to the next time she is expecting twins.
There is no guarantee you will garner this much milk from a single dairy goat, but it is possible.
How To Milk A Goat
Let’s go through a quick run through of supplies you will need:
- Milking stand
- Strip Cup
- .5% Iodine
- Small cup (dixie cup is fine, to hold the iodine and the right size for the teat to sit in)
- Paper towel/Clean wipe
You can try to milk a goat without the use of a milking stand, I did once … and only once.
You sweet and compliant nanny goat just might surprise you when she digs in her hooves and refused to stand still and let you milk her.
Building or spending approximately $150 on a milking stand is an investment I doubt you will regret.
- Place a goat halter around the neck of the nanny goat and calmly and patiently lead her to the milking stand.
- Put a small bucket of feed or a snack on the front of the milking stand for the nanny goat to consume during the process. I prefer to use a milking stand with a hanger for the bucket, this helps prevent the goat from squatting down to get her treat.
- The lead strap end to the front of the milking stand on the provided bar. Tie the lead strap tightly enough that the goat will have to hold still to remain upright but not so tight that suddenly becoming frantic could cause the goat to break her neck as she thrashes about. The lead strap should be tied as tight and in the same manner as you would use when transporting an animal in a livestock trailer.
- Put the milk bucket on the base of the stand just under the nanny goat’s teats.
- Put on some disposable gloves, you should put new ones on for every new doe to keep from bacteria from a previous udder to spread to other goats.
- Wash the teats of the nanny goat to make sure they are not caked with dirt, mud, feces, or debris of any type that the milk will have to flow through to reach the bucket. This is also a good time to check the teats for any signs of tearing, chafing, swelling, or infection (this is also known as mastitis).
- Dip the teat in .5% iodine for about 30 seconds this is after you have cleaned the teat of dirt and debris
- Before milking you need to strip the teat, this is like a pre-test to make sure there isn’t any unusual appearance of the milk
- When stripping you should have a strip cup beneath the udder. This cup is mean to strain and collect any somatic milk, clots, debris, etc.
- Stripping should be done 2-3 times per teat to clear up any bacteria from the stream of goat milk
- Once the teat has been dipped and stripped use the single-use cloth or paper towel prior to milking the goat
- Grasp – not grab the teats and then gently yet firmly, tugging them in a downward motion towards the bucket. Apply even pressure on the teats, do not yank them in an attempt to make the milk flow out faster, this is not only unnecessary but can cause tearing and swelling of the teats – hurting the nanny goat in the process.
- After milking each of the nanny goat’s teats, wash them off again. I use coconut oil or olive oil to naturally moisturize the teats to protect them from chaffing.
Goat Milking Cycle
Can you milk a nursing nanny goat? The answer to this question is – depends?
Goats are equipped with a reflex that essentially holds back milk for their kids while they are being nurses.
She will effectively stop the milk from flowing when you milk her when she senses the rest of her daily stores need to be held back for her babies.
It is best to wait until the baby goats or kids are 8 weeks old and weaned. Once the kids no longer need the milk from their mother, she will hit the freshening stage of her milk cycle.
A nanny goat should not be milked until she had entered the “freshening” portion of her milk cycle. This means the nanny goat is fully entered her milk cycle and no longer needs to save back milk for her kids.
This stage can last up to 12 months, on average.
When a nanny goat hits the “going dry” stage of her milk cycle it is time to breed her again. Typically a nanny goat’s milk dries up approximately two months before she should be “refreshened” or rebred.
The milk near the end of the cycle will usually be of both lesser quantity and quality. It is not uncommon for milk to boast a salty taste shortly before the need for freshening arise.
The salty taste to goat’s milk is caused by an increase in mineral production.
While this milk is still safe to consume, most folks opt against it due to its rather unpleasant taste.
How To Train A Goat For Milking
Some goats are more apt to take to milking than others.
A first-time nanny is likely to put up more of a fuss about entering a milking stand and calmly remaining there while you milk her than a more experienced nanny.
Expect to feel like you just wrestled a bear after the first few milking sessions with new nanny goats.
But, do not despair, the transition into the milking stand and the expected behavior during the milking process nearly always improve after the nanny begins to understand what is expected of her and that the imposition you are subjecting her to is only a temporary one.
Goat Milk Training Tips And Hints
- Supply a bit of grain or a goat’s favorite snacks when they are being milked. My lead nanny goat, Pearl, absolutely loves molasses, so I either pour some of her sweet mix grain or on a little bit of bread and put it in a bucket that hangs from the milking stand for her to enjoy while being milked. A delicious distraction can go a long way to make a nanny goat forget she is momentarily stuck in a milking stand.
- But, make sure all of your other goats cannot come near the milking stand or the nanny will become agitated and food aggressive. Preventing the goat from thrashing about while in the milking stand is crucial to prevent both injuries and further mental stress associated with the milking process.
- Speak to the goat in a soothing and calm manner from the time you put a halter on her and lead her into the milking stand until the time you are finished and she is once again free. Keeping the goat calm no matter how much she is fussing with you to get her safely into the milking stand and keeping her there as a willing participant and not a combatant.
- It may pay to keep one of your hands on the nanny goat’s rear legs at all times is she is prone to fussing while in the milking stand. This will help prevent or defray kicking – which not only can hurt but also top over the bucket of milk you are in the process of collecting.
- Do not go at the milking process like you are killing snakes. Calm and steady is the key to keeping the goat calm and milk flowing into an unspilled bucket. Allowing yourself to get or show agitation will most likely cause the already agitated goat to become more so and no good will come from that.
- You can also purchase or make goat hobbles to keep a nanny still while in the milking stand. I have never had to resort to this tactic, but I have known some homesteaders who did use hobbles to get nanny goats to stop kicking and standstill. The hobbles were a stop-gap measure that were eventually tossed aside once the inexperienced nanny goat learned what was expected of her was not going to either hurt or become a permanent entrapment in the milking stand.
- If you are milking a small stature dairy goat or one that tends to squat after being in the milking stand for a while – or even the entire time, use a smaller bucket to prevent it from getting knocked over.
Goats can be far more stubborn than most humans. View inexperienced nanny goats as two year olds throwing a tantrum – or emotionally overwrought teenage girls.
If you have raised a daughter and survived the sometimes overwhelming and exasperating task, you can milk a fussy goat. You simply must become more determined and stubborn than they are – at least for roughly 15 minutes.
By the third to fifth trip to the milking stand, even the most disgruntled nanny goats typically settle into the process and put up less of a fuss when it is their turn to be milked.
To prepare a nanny goat to dry up before freshening, start milking her only every other day for a week.
Next, milk the goat only once every two days for a week. Start milking the dairy goat just once every three days per week, followed by a milking only once every four days until the milk is completely dried up.
Never simply stop milking the goat, this will not stop milk production and will cause swelling, bloating possible infection, and other severe health issues for the nanny goat.
Choosing a quality dairy goat breed is perhaps the most important step in the goat milking process. While any nanny goat will produce milk, both the quantity and the quality of that milk can vary substantially.
How much milk you acquire on a daily basis from your nanny goat will depend on several factors. Milk production may be lower if the goat is young or thin or if she had multiple kids that depleted her milk supply.
Top dairy goat breeds typically take to the milking process far easier than other breeds, which is a major plus for newbie milkers who have never before dealt with a fussy goat fighting against being placed in a milking stand.
Dairy Goat Top Breeds
Let’s go through some of the best milk goats:
- Nubian Goats – capable of producing approximately 4 quarts of milk per day.
- Nigerian Dwarf Goats – typically produces 1 quart of milk per day.
Goat milk has a higher butterfat percentage than cow milk, making it almost as sweet to taste like buttermilk.
Folks with lactose intolerance issues are often able to consume food made with goat’s milk or glasses of goat’s milk without suffering the same ill effects associated with the consumption of cow’s milk.
Goat Milking: Final Thoughts
As you can see, there is a simple process to goat milking all you need is the right supplies. I personally love goat’s milk compared to cow’s milk.
The most important part to maintaining and keeping healthy dairy goats is their diet and taking care of their udders.
I hope you found this helpful and you are well on your way to milking your first goat. It is an experience unlike any other.
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