I was getting goats. So exciting! I worried about a lot of things when I started the process, peppering a friend with hundreds of questions about raising goats, but milking the goats was never something I worried too much about. I had milked the big plastic cow at StoryLand and the county fair numerous times. How much harder could it be to milk a goat? Ha ha ha. Those of you reading this that milk goats are getting a big chuckle at my expense right now. It’s not easy! But I’m here to tell you, it’s not hard either. You just have to figure out which of the hundreds of techniques works best for you.
Mini Breeds vs. Full-Sized Breeds
We have Nigerians, so that’s primarily what I’m going to discuss. The big difference between a mini breed (like Nigerians) and full-sized breeds is teat size. Duh, right?! When it comes to milking, it’s the difference between milking with your whole hand versus your fingers. I think it’s funny when I’m talking to people with larger breeds of goats. they always say “It must be so hard to milk such a little goat.” Uhm, nope. It’s all I know, so it seems easy-peasy to me.
Regardless of which breed you have, the process and learning curve to milk a goat is the same. We’re going to run through them all.
Researching How to Milk a Goat
If you’re here, you are probably in this phase. I dabbled in this phase. Learn from my mistakes and study this section like you’re practicing for your SATs. Videos are an excellent way to see how people milk their goats. You’ll want to practice a couple of techniques. I’ve found that I have a slightly different technique for each of my goats because of different teat size and personality.
These are the videos I found the most helpful.
- Milking Nigerian Dwarfs Close Up by Nigerian Meadows – This one shows several techniques for the various udder size and teat shape in her herd.
- How to Hand-Milk a Goat by Alayna May – She takes you from start to finish and shows you how to deal with kicking.
- Hand Milking Your Dairy Goat by Oldesouth Farm – This one has a great angle so you can really see what she’s doing.
- How to Milk Goats 101 by Big Family Homestead – She discusses hobbling in this vide. This leads me to the next phase of this experience…
Don’t Expect Drinkable Milk for a Week
Assuming you are milking twice a day, it’s best to have the mindset that you won’t have drinkable milk for about a week. That will eliminate a lot of disappointment during this learning curve. When you are learning how to milk a goat you can expect knocked over milk, hooves in the milk, copious amounts of hair, dirt, and other debris in the pail, and so many other milk-tastophies. At one point I threw out the bucket altogether – yes, I actually threw it out of the milking room. I accepted that I wasn’t drinking any milk and I just folded up some towels under my doe and milked into the towels. Instantly my stress was relieved.
More Ways to Relieve the Stress
My stress level lower when I stopped trying to catch the milk or aim for a target. My stress level went down even more when I figured out how to tame my doe’s back legs. I went on Amazon and purchased a Velcro hobble. Used as intended it was a total waste of money on my Nigerians. In fact, not only did it not prevent my goats from moving and kicking, I got a swift kick in the jaw trying to put it on. It was thrown out with the milk bucket.
Seriously, the only liquid happening in that milking room was my tears!
On further contemplation, I realized I could still use the hobbles, but in a different way. I removed the adjustable “rings” that go on the above goat’s hocks and attached them to cheap small dog leashed. I got my doe up on the stand, attached the adjustable ring to just below her hock , and tied the leash to the leg of the stand. Eureka! It wasn’t pulled tight and she could still wiggle around a bit, but her hoof couldn’t go forward. We started with both back legs, but transitioned to just the one on the side I’m milking on, and then to none.
Know What an Empty Udder Feels Like
This is one of those times you can’t really learn from video or text. When you are first learning how to milk a goat it can be hard to tell when you’re done. Is no more milk coming out because I need to adjust my technique? Is no more milk coming out because she’s empty? Unless you know what an empty udder looks and feels like, it can be really hard to know the answer.
My suggestion is to find a dairy farm near you where you can watch the milking process or maybe even practice. I visited Feather & Scale Farm, the farm I purchased my goats from. They were a very valuable resource while I was learning. They continued to be an asset through other learning processes like kidding and health concerns. You need a goat mentor.
It Will Be Okay & You CAN Do It
I guarantee you will be out in the barn for hours, arms burning, hands cramping, tears streaming, and milk in your hair and all over your clothes. You’ll be questioning all of your life’s choices. You may be wondering if you will ever figure this out. I’m here to tell you, you will! I’m pretty sure every dairy goat owner has been where you are, but we survived it. The highlight of learning something like milking is that you are obligated to go out there every day and try again. By the end of the month you’ll be an expert. Yes, you will still occasionally squirt yourself in the eye. Yes, there will still be the days where no milk makes it to the house because the goat stepped in it or it was spilled. That’s okay. You can do this!
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