learning how to hand milk a goat

How to Hand-Milk a Goat

Hand-Milking is a Skill

Congratulations! Welcome to the world of goat milk! You have or are soon getting a goat in milk or soon to be in milk. How on earth do you hand-milk and what do you need? Learning how to hand-milk a goat is easy, but it takes knowledge and practice. Just follow the instructions below and you will be on your way. So buckle up and let’s get started!

What You’ll Need to Hand-Milk

  • A goat who is at least a week past kidding. That first week is mainly colostrum and that should all go to the babies. But, did you really want to drink colostrum?
  • A stainless steel container to milk into. It does NOT need to be a pail or something fancy. It just needs to be durable and metal. You would even be able to get away with an aluminum one. However, for durability, a stainless steel bowl may be just the trick. Get the size you think you’d need. I recommend one that could hold 16 cups (2 quarts).
  • A glass half-gallon or quart jar with a canning rim.
  • A 6″ x 6″ square of muslin or doubled-up cheesecloth.
  • Two small plastic containers.
  • A quart each of soapy water and clean water.
  • Washcloths, rags, or paper towels
  • Teat spray
  • Stanchion or a way to retain the doe
  • Grain and grain bucket (optional chaffhaye)

Secure Your Goat

Make sure you have a stanchion or some way to secure the goat’s head.  Grain in a bucket in front of your goat will keep her happy until she is done being milked. 

For a full-sized goat, we feed them four cups of grain on stand at each milking. If they finish the grain before the milking is done, we give them chaffhaye to keep the happy until the milking is done. Also, make sure you have a comfortable seating position.  You don’t want to have to lean over too much unless you are ok with having a tired back when you are finished.  

Clean the Udder

Next, you will wash your goat’s udder.  Get your container of soapy water and the washcloth (or paper towel, rag).  You are going to leave the rag wet enough to make sure that you can wash it properly.  This wash will be getting all the dirt and debris off of her udder. 

Next, get a new washcloth (or paper towel, rag). Wet it with the clean water, squeeze if out and “rinse off” the udder this way.  You may have to do the clean water twice to make sure it’s done well.  I wouldn’t put the same back into the water, but rather use a new one.  

If Needed, Hobble

If your goat has not been milked before, or is a known “kicker”, now would be the time to hobble her.  Hobbling is strapping her back legs together to prevent her from being able to raise her feet.

Goats more “stomp” than kick.(“Kicking” may have you thinking of how we know a horse or cow to do it, but that’s not so with goats).

We bought hobbles from Amazon (link here).  I really like them.  They are really easy to use.  You can hobble her ankles.  Goats tend to try to “hop” in lieu of kicking when I hobble their ankles.  Instead, hobble them above their “knees”. 

hobbled at ankles learing how to hand milk a goat
Hobbled at ankles
how to hand milk a goat

The location of the straps over their tendons keeps them from trying to hop or kick. 

Or Use Rope…

Another option, especially if you have a goat that likes to “squat” on top of your container, is to tie the doe’s leg comfortably behind her.  By doing this, they can’t kick and squatting is almost impossible. The doe in the picture below would do an Irish step dance every time I tried to milk her. We did this for three weeks and never had that problem again. Just don’t tie it too tighly, but secure enough for her to not get loose. Also, don’t tie it up too high. The height you see in the picture is the perfect height and won’t be too uncomfortable.

Other people have taken rope and tied their back ankles to the stanchion.  You can try each of these and see what works best for your goat.  Keep in mind, this won’t have to be forever.  My second goat is going through a phase and I don’t expect to hobble her forever. So, don’t be discouraged if you have a goat who needs this training! It comes with the territory.   

Strip Teats

If you haven’t heard this expression before, it can sound a bit odd.  You can either do this into a cup or a paper towel.  Squeeze each teat once into said cup or paper towel.  The reason we do this is to clear the teat opening and potential bacteria that may exist in it.  If you don’t do this, I guarantee your milk will get goaty quicker than if you do in fact strip the teat. 

Figure Out Where You Will Sit

I have two does in milk currently.  The first one I sit behind to milk. I sit on the side of the second one.  Why is this? Once you have milked your does, you will have a preference. Why two different positions for the goats?  It comes down to how their teats sit on their udder and how their milk comes out when you squeeze. This will just take trying each on your goat and you will quickly figure out why there are two options.

Get Your Container Ready

You will need a container that is non-porous and easy to clean.  That’s why I recommend the stainless steel bowl.  Place the bowl under the does udder.  You will have to adjust the location based on where you will see her stream comes out.  

Hand Mechanics

Now on the milking part. Not to oversimplify, but let’s not assume that everyone has ever seen someone milk a cow (or goat).  Make a “C” with your thumb and pointer. Wrap your hand around the teats (cupping the teat). Make sure the udder is sitting on your “c” of your hand. (Please disregard the “dirt” on my hands. It’s actually chaffhaye.)

make a "c" around the teat with your hand

“Pinch” your pointer and thumb together.

Don’t be afraid of hurting your goat as you learn how to hand milk.  If you’ve seen how rough the baby goats are, you know their udders are not really sensitive.  However, you don’t want to go overboard either. You are going to pinch it off to capture milk in the teat.  Do NOT pull down for this next step.  You can actually push your cupped hand up into the udder as if you were holding it. Do this all the while when milking!

This will also give you more control over the aim of the milk stream.  With the pointer and thumb still pinching off the flow, use your middle and ring finger to squeeze the milk out.  A steady stream should come out. 

Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen the first time you do this.  It may take you once or a few times before you get the hang of it.  I was surprised when my first attempt didn’t bring out the milk. 

Now do these same steps with the other side. You can alternate or do them both at the same time.  It doesn’t matter to the goat.  I think it’s easier to alternate especially when you are first learning how to hand milk a goat.

Watch Your Goat  

Those that are unhobbled will occasionally kick.  This morning, unbeknownst to me, my unhobbled girl had a huge horsefly land on her and tried to shoo it off with her back leg, which meant a close call with a hoof in the milk.  I would recommend not trying to milk out entirely before emptying into your container. Stop periodically and transfer into your pre-prepared jars.

Milk transfer: Occasionally stop and pour the milk into the jars that were prepared with the muslin or cheesecloth. You need only take that muslin or doubled-up cheesecloth and cover the top of the jar. Secure it by putting the rim on the jar. Leave a slight dip in the muslin. This will make the milk pool in the center rather than roll off if the cloth is tight.

Pour slowly.  You may have foam when you are milking.  This is normal. It’s actually rather a pain, but you can work around it.

Since you are pouring it through the cheesecloth, you are filtering as you do this. Carefully remove the rim and muslin/cheesecloth.  You don’t want to inadvertently dump the stuff you took out of your milk back into it.  Place the lid on your jar, replace the rim to secure the lid, and get it into the refrigerator as quickly as possible. 

Before You Let Her Out

Lastly, for your doe’s health, you should spray her teat openings. It can take up to half an hour before the teat orifices close. To avoid any bacteria getting in there, you should spray it. We use diluted tea tree spray. It works well as we haven’t had any major problems as of this date.

Congratulations!

You have learned how to hand milk a goat! Now all you need is practice and soon you shall be milking with your own rhythm and pace.  You may get so much milk that now you’ll have to learn how to do something with it all!  Want to make yogurt? Check out this article on how to do that. 

Happy hand-milking! 

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