Go(a)t Milk? Part II-Preparations

By Kassie DwyerEden Farm, Athens, ME

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Mama’s little helper-Saoirse & Diamond

Before your doe kids and it’s time to begin milking, you have some decisions to make and supplies to gather.  Your best bet, like any part of farming, is to be prepared for the situation.  A little consideration and “pre-gaming” goes a long ways.  

How many times you choose to milk a day is up to you, but remember that supply will generally increase with demand.  I milk once a day in the morning.  However, I also dam-raise my kids.  Many dairy producers choose to separate mom and babies and bottle feed the kids.

In this case, you would likely milk twice a day, and get more milk.  I have had great luck raising my kids on mom, though.  Everyone is happier and the kids grow like weeds.  We still get plenty of milk for our family of three.  In order to milk and dam raise kids concurrently though, you must separate everyone for 12 hours or so before milking.

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Nosy baby

What I do is leave Diamond and her daughter, Saoirse, together all day, then Saoirse goes into her own pen at night.  After morning milking, she goes back in with Diamond.  I start doing this when the kid is at about 2 weeks of age, and at the beginning put them in a kennel inside mom’s pen so it’s less stressful for them.  After a while, they get the hang of it and are totally fine.  Now, when it’s time for evening chores, Saoirse, who just turned 3 months, runs out the door of the main pen and into her own-on her own! Operating this way, I get anywhere from 1 ½-2 quarts (a half gallon) each morning, depending on where Diamond is in her lactation.
When you are ready to begin milking, you will need to gather your supplies.  You will need a milk bucket.  Make sure that it fits under your goat properly and is of sufficient volume!  If this bucket doesn’t have a lid, you will need a tote with a lid to carry your milk back to the house.

13450906_10209767414281641_1781960216697119407_nYou will need a filter assembly and filters, sanitizing dip, gloves, a strip cup, paper towels, and cleaning materials (more on that later).  Your goat will need somewhere to stand during milking.  Milk stands come in all shapes and sizes, and can be purchased or made.  Mine was built by one of my students, aged 12! You can find great plans online.  Just make sure that your stand is of a suitable height for both you and your goat.  You don’t want to spend your time milking hunched over or having to keep your arms raised in the air.  You can sit on the stand or have a stool.  Some people even prefer to stand!  Ideally, you will have a separate milking room, but that is not feasible for everyone (myself included).  If you can’t, a clean area in your barn away from other animals is your best bet!

Now that you’ve done all this hard work to get ready to milk, it’s time for the fun stuff! Hand cramps and feet in buckets! Kicks to the face! Goat gas! Yes, all these things maybe involved, but I promise, the milking process is worth the rewards.