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Milking Goats

One of the Reasons I wanted goats, was for increased self-sufficiency. Not only are they adorable, but they are also milking animals. This was an ambitious leap for me, being that I grew up super suburban, and never even seen an animal milked, let alone milked one myself. In order to get milk from a goat, they need to lactate, which means they need to have babies first.

1st step - Making the Babies

There are a few different methods on how to impregnate goats, but we went with a more old-fashioned technique. They had a male visitor for about 3 months, and we let nature take its course. Six months later we had 3 beautiful healthy baby goats.

Once the baby goats started eating hay and begun to wean off milk (about 2 weeks), I started onto my new venture, of milking the goats.

Step 2 - Schedule and Prep

The goats need to be milked twice a day, twelve hours apart. I chose 6:30 am and pm.

Equipment needed for milking is a stainless-steel (Not plastic) milking jug with a lid, a funnel, a filter, a bowl, and a cheese cloth.

Step 3 - The Proper Bribe

In order to get my girls (sort of) still on the milking stand I bribe them with food. I give them a bucket of hay, with about 1/3 cup of grains and a pinch of goat snacks. They literally lick their lips when they see me coming with the bucket, and line up to get on the milking stand.

Step 4 - Getting in Position

I put the bucket of goodies in the milking stand feeder, and once my girl is in, I lock the board so her head cannot get out, and she remains semi-still. I do not have an area to separate the other goats from the one I am milking yet, so at this time I have to try to fight off all the other goats from steeling the food.

As she is eating, I pull up a chair right beside her, and place my milk container with the lid on it right beside me.

Step 5 - Obtaining the Milk

Then you find the teat. Goats have 2, not 4. This was news to me. You (at least I) cannot put the collection container on the stand. The goat will step in it, kick it over, and make a huge mess. So, I hold the container in my left hand, and milk with my right hand. This does not stop them from trying to kick the bowl, but it gives me some control over their success.

The reason (I've discovered) that separating the goats during milking, is if you don't it's kind of chaotic. My milking routine involves the kids trying to drink from the teat while I'm milking (sometimes biting my fingers), or stealing the milk in my bowl, the other doe fighting to get her head in the food bucket and sometimes knocking over the whole milk stand (with my milking doe still locked in it), the goat who I am milking kicking the milk bowl completely out of my hand, spilling everything, or stepping directly in the milk.

Right now, I do not get a whole lot of milk, because I am still competing with the kids for milk supply. I am getting them used to the routine though, and as the kids drink less milk, I should have more. The kids will not be fully weaned until 4-6 weeks.

Once the milk stops flowing, she is done. I take the milk in the bowl, and pour it into the milk jug, and place the lid on it, until the next doe has been milked. Keeping the lid on the milking jug keeps other goats from knocking it over and spilling it, drinking it, or standing in it. Essentially, it keeps it clean.

Step 6 - Filtering

Once I am done milking, I filter the milk immediately. I store the milk in a mason jar, then insert the funnel, line it with the cheese cloth, and then place the filter on top. Then pour the milk in. The cheese cloth, and filter will keep any hair, hay, dirt, or anything that may have found its way into your bucket - out of the milk.

Step 7 - Storing

Once the milk has been filtered, I place it immediately in the freezer. Freezing the goat milk prevents it from getting a "goaty flavor". At the same time, since I am not getting a huge quantity at once, this allows me to store the milk, until I have enough for drinking, or to make butter, cheese, or yogurt (which I will cover in future blogs).

In order to make the milk ready for drinking, transfer to the refrigerator to defrost. Note- this is raw milk. If you wish to pasteurize, that is an additional step.

Step 8 - Pasteurization - or Not

There are mixed feelings on pasteurization. While on one hand, pasteurizing kills all bacteria, potential pathogens and impurities from the milk, on the other hand it also kills much of the beneficial microorganisms, vitamins, and enzymes.

However, there are different "levels" of pasteurization.

There is ultra-pasteurization, where the milk is heated to 280 degrees for 4-5 seconds. This kills all potentially harmful bacteria, but also damages all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in the milk.

There is High-Temperature Pasteurization, where the milk is heated to 161 degrees for 15 seconds, and then is rapidly cooled. This kills enzymes as well as much of the healthy micro-organisms and denatures the proteins.

Lastly there is Low-Temperature pasteurization, where the milk is heated to 145 degrees for 30 minutes, and rapidly cooled. Dangerous pathogens are destroyed, but more enzymes and proteins remain intact.

Raw milk- Raw milk has the most nutrients, but there is also a chance of getting sick from raw milk from various bacteria. I love my goats, and I brush them, and keep their pen clean, but do I trust that there is no trace of bacteria on their body, or hooves that could potentially end up in the milk? - no way. If they were on a mechanical milker, that wasn't exposed to outside - maybe. That is not our circumstance however, so I will hedge my bets and complete the low-temperature pasteurization at least.

Essentially the higher the temperature for pasteurization, the shorter the process, and the more you kill off, good and bad.

Have you tried milking goats? What has worked for you? What methods of pasteurization (if any) do you like?

Feel Free to comment below!

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