If you have dairy goats, then you will probably want to learn how to milk goats. Milking goats isn't terribly complicated, but it does take a little bit of trial and error to get the technique right.
Learning how to milk a goat is pretty simple, you will need a few supplies first. After your supplies are ready, you will get your goat on the milk stand and begin milking by grabbing high up on her teats, creating a circle with your thumb and first finger and then capturing the milk and squeezing it down and out.
Below we will lay out when to milk your goat, what supplies you need, and how to do the actual milking.
How to Milk a Goat by Hand:
We should cover a few important things before jumping into the actual step-by-step milking process.
When Do You Milk a Goat?
It may seem to be a simple and straight forward answer, however, we get this question quite a lot. A goat will only produce milk once she has been bred and had kids. So, you will milk your goats after they kid.
How Often Do You Milk?
Most goats will need to be milked twice a day - once in the morning and once at night. However, it isn't always as cut and dry as that.
If a doe has her kids with her and they are still nursing, then technically, you shouldn't have to milk her at all if you don't want to. In fact, if you do want to milk her, you will probably need to separate her kids so that she has enough milk for you to get a decent amount.
The best way to handle this scenario, is to separate the kids in a separate stall or area over night and then milk the doe first thing in the morning. In this instance, you will only need to milk your doe once per day.
If you want to be able to have all of the milk, you can totally separate the kids and bottle feed them and then milk the doe twice a day.
If you have a doe and you sell her kids at weaning age (around 8 weeks), you will still need to milk her for at least a little while. Otherwise, she will continue to produce milk and her udder can get engorged and cause a whole slew of issues.
You will need several milking supplies in order to successfully milk your goat. The basics are:
- Milk Stand
- Milk Pail - this is the one we use and it is awesome.
- Grain or other Treat to eat like alfalfa pellets
Milking Process Step-by-Step
Now that you now when, how often and what supplies you need to milk your goat you can get started with the actual milking process. We are going to cover how to milk a goat by hand here, but you can also use a milking machine.
A milking machine is really easy in that you hook it up, put it on her teats, turn it on and are good to go. Of course, you will still need most of the same supplies and will need to clean the machine after use.
Need some help to keep your goats healthy and maintained? The G.O.A.T Herd Management Binder has you covered from supplies to routine care reminders.
1) Prepare a milk stand treat
Milk stand treats are crucial when milking your goats. This can be any mix of goodies that you know they will love and be happy to stand and eat. You can use grain, alfalfa, chaffhaye. Whatever your does will love so that they will focus on eating and hold still while you do the milking.
Bonus tip: milk stands and treats also work great for trimming their hooves and shaving them for showing.
2) Get your goat on the milk stand
This should be pretty easy if you show them their feed bucket with their milk stand treat. They should jump right up on the stand for you.
If it is their first few times, they may need a little coaxing. Or, you may need to show them where their head should go.
This will be easiest if you spend a little time training your goat to the stand before you are ready to milk. While they are pregnant, or even before, you can start getting them used to being on the stand.
To do this, you can put their treats in the feed bowl and encourage them to get on the stand. Then, just let them eat the first couple of times so that they have a positive experience.
After a few times like this, you can try doing things like their hoof trimmings, or just petting and touching them. That way, they get used to being handled while on the stand.
It is also good to get your does used to having their udders touched before you go right to milking. So, while you are training them to the stand, it is good to touch their udder area some as well.
3) Get things prepared
Before you get started with the milking, you'll want to put your gloves on (for sanitary purposes). Then, get your milk pail ready.
Next, clean off your goats udder with a warm wet rag (or udder wipes of your choice). This will get all of the debris and any bacteria or other unwanted materials off her udder before you get started.
This is not necessary, but is useful in keeping things clean and hair out of the milk. Before kidding, you may want to shave your goats udder - this will make cleaning their udder at milking time much easier.
4) Start Milking
Ok, so now that everything is set up and ready you can get to the actual milking part.
You will want to reach around your goats teat (up high on the udder if possible).
Next, make a circle with your thumb and pointer finger "capturing the milk" into the teat.
While holding your thumb and first finger together, squeeze your other fingers and palm around the teat to squeeze the milk down and out of the teat into your milk pail. (As seen in the photo below).
You want to avoid pulling down on the teat. Therefore, it is more of capturing the milk into the teat and pressing it out (like you would a tube of toothpaste). Rather than pulling down on the teat.
You will continue doing this until there is no milk left in your does udder. Sometimes you may need to gently massage the udder some to help her release all of her milk.
Important Note: You should do a strip test before milking everything out. This essentially means to get one or two squirts of milk out of each teat onto the milk stand or a separate jar. This will help clear any bacteria from the teat and also allow you to examine the milk to see if there is any blood or other issues with the milk.
5) Store the milk
Then, get it into the fridge as soon as possible to get it cooled down. Doing this fast helps to maintain the flavor and safety of the milk. You can leave it raw or learn how to pasteurize milk. If your goats have started to decrease in their milk production, it's easy to figure out what's wrong.
What if my goat won't stand still to be milked?
There are usually two things a goat may do on the stand to make it difficult to milk her. The first is squatting or laying down. If your doe squats, the best thing you can do is to place a bucket under her chest. This will keep her standing up safely so that you can milk her.
The other thing some does will do is to kick their back legs. This can make it super hard to milk them and can also result in knocking over the milk pail which is a real bummer. There are goat hobbles which are essentially a short restraint to tie their back legs together so that they can't kick.
Do all goats need to be milked?
No, all goats do not need to be milked. Only does who have kidded will produce milk. And only those who don't have kids on them need to be milked.
How long does it take to milk a goat?
It takes anywhere from 2 - 10 minutes to milk a goat. It will vary based on how fast you can milk, how much your doe produces and how cooperative the doe is.
What are the best goats to milk?
If you need more help keeping your goats healthy and well taken care of, check out the G.O.A.T. Herd Management System - worksheets, calculators, supply management and more to keep your goats in tip top shape while cutting down on time.