The ultimate goal of most dairy goat owners is to produce fresh, healthy, delicious milk. Typically, goat-keepers quickly learn the physical fundamentals of getting that milk as described in Hobby Farms’ step-by-step milking procedure, How To Milk A Goat. (Learn how to construct a simple stanchion for milking here.) However, there are subtle details associated with milking a goat that such procedures might miss. Stressed goats, poor hygiene, mishandled milk and producing off-flavor milk are four areas where mistakes often occur. Goat-keepers can avoid these mistakes by following the practices described below.
It takes a healthy, well-managed and content goat to reach her potential for milk production. Thus does should be milked in safe, stress-free environments. Milking areas should be quiet, peaceful, clean and dry. Goats love a schedule and prefer to be milked in the same order every day. Milking twice a day, 12 hours apart is considered optimal for maximum milk production. But it’s fine to milk once a day or on other schedules as long as it’s consistent from day to day.
Using a milking stanchion, feeding the grain ration on the stanchion and always milking from the same position are highly recommended. Also, avoid harsh, irritating udder-wash or teat-dip products, and use warm water to encourage milk letdown. Milk gently, so goats learn it’s a pleasant experience with rewards of tasty grain and udder-pressure relief.
Dust, dirt, hair and bacteria are the enemies of wholesome milk. When milking a goat, make sure milking areas are swept regularly, goat stalls are clean and bedding is changed frequently. Does flanks, udder, tail and stomach should be clipped to remove excess hair.
Preventing bacterial transmission (such as those causing mastitis) is important, so use a separate wipe to wash and dry each goat’s udder. Use a partially covered pail to prevent dirt from falling into the milk. Always squirt the first streams of milk into a strip-cup and check for abnormalities. If anything is unusual, discard that milk, test for mastitis and consult a veterinarian for treatment options.
After milking a goat, stainless or glass utensils should be used to handle and store milk, not plastic or aluminum (they harbor bacteria). Wash hands before milking, strain the milk as soon as possible after milking and cool the milk immediately. Milk is best when cooled from 100 degrees to 35 degrees within 30 minutes.
After milking, rinse the equipment with warm water immediately. Hot water causes protein residues to build up (called milkstone) whereas cold water will not rinse away the butterfat. Then wash the equipment using a dairy cleaner (most contain bleach) and rinse in cool water containing an acidic cleaner.
Goat breeds that produce higher butterfat milk tend to consistently produce great-tasting milk because higher butterfat milk is slower to develop off-flavors. All milk absorbs odors easily, and many odors negatively affect taste. Particularly for breeds that produce lower butterfat milk, it’s important to process the milk promptly, avoid strong odors and use appropriate equipment to avoid off-flavors.
Make sure the milking room smells clean, and avoid milking a goat anywhere that has unpleasant odors. Keep bucks out of the milking area because their distinctive smell will produce a bad flavor.
In addition, avoid feeding odiferous vegetables such as cabbage, onions and garlic. Sudden changes in feed rations, feeding sweet feeds with high amounts of molasses and exposing milk to sunlight can also negatively affect flavor.
With a little practice, It’s easy for goat-keepers to learn the physical technique of milking a goat. Following the practices outlined above ensures that when the goats are milked, the end product is clean, wholesome and great-tasting milk.