How to Milk a Dairy Goat

One of the best arguments I can make in favor of adding goats to your farm is having fresh goat milk.

(As if I even needed to make any argument for having goats, amirite?)

Getting that creamy, delicious milk out of the goat and onto your morning cereal isn’t as hard as you might think. Let me walk you through the steps and you’ll be a pro in no time.

Wash your hands and have clean equipment to use. The key to good-tasting milk is “Clean and Cold” – clean hands, clean equipment, clean udder, and getting the milk cold as quickly as possible when you’re done.  To make sure the doe’s udder is clean, use disposable antibacterial baby wipes (my first choice) or a mild soapy water and washcloths. Clean off her teats and a couple inches up onto her udder. Give her a little massage while you do this. Not only does it help her relax and let down her milk, but you can also feel for any cuts or owies she might have. Time on the milk stand is a great time for you to check her over and make sure she’s in tiptop shape.

How to milk a goat with

Now that she’s all clean, it’s time to milk. Make an “OK” sign with your fingers by touching the tips of your thumb and first finger together. This is the starting position for milking. Make that “OK” sign with one teat in the circle of your thumb and first finger. Close the circle around the top of the teat to keep the milk that’s inside the teat from going anywhere but out the orifice.

Now close each finger around the teat, one at a time, working the milk down the teat and out. First finger, then middle finger, then ring finger, and if her teats are long enough, your pinkie finger as well.  Open your hand to allow more milk to flow down into the teat and repeat.

Squeeze the first three or four squirts of milk into a dark cup or bowl. Most of the bacteria will likely be in this foremilk and it’s good to get that out of the way. You can swish the foremilk around in the dark cup and look for signs of mastitis. She probably won’t have any, but it’s good to check. Remember, you’re her first line of defense against it, so don’t skip this step. You’re looking for any red streaks, any clumps or stringiness. If you find some, contact your veterinarian for advice. If there’s nothing in the cup but beautiful white milk, go ahead and milk her out.

Here, I’m milking directly into a stainless steel milk filter with disposable paper insert that is sitting in the mouth of a glass quart mason jar. Filtering the milk is important because sometimes a hair from the doe’s belly or a bit of dirt can drop in there, and nobody wants that in their milk. You can use coffee filters to filter the milk also, and some people filter through a piece of white cotton fabric, but if you do that, be sure that the fabric has been sterilized by boiling it in water ahead of time. I prefer the disposable paper inserts because they’re thrown away after one use (ensuring a clean one every time), and the stainless steel filter goes into the dishwasher after chores are done.

Before letting the doe off the milk stand, be sure to give her a teat dip. Don’t forget this step! It’s important to help avoid mastitis by keeping the orifice clean of bacteria until it naturally closes up in a few minutes. There are lots of recipes online for homemade teat dips if you don’t want to use chemical dips. My preferred teat dip is this dilute iodine one dispensed into a sprayer bottle that can spray upside down, but you can also use a teat dip cup filled with your favorite solution, and dip the teats into it.

How To Milk A Goat

When the milk is out and filtered, get it cold as quickly as possible. Set your jar(s) of milk in a sink of ice water. You can put the jars in the freezer for a while too, but ice water baths can chill the milk faster. Keeping the milk in quart jars or smaller helps it chill faster yet.

The lovely people at Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery made this drawing of proper milking procedures. I thought you might like to see it, since they did such a good job:


So now that you’ve got your tasty, creamy milk, I suggest you treat yourself to a cookies-and-milk break. I’m thinking chocolate chip. How about you?

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