I got into milking goats because I wanted to know where my milk was coming from and that it was safe for my family and me. For health reasons, my wife is supposed to stay away from cow’s milk, so buying a goat and learning how to milk one seemed like an easy decision to make.

Milking a goat, cow or any other animal may seem like a simple task, and it isn’t extremely difficult, but you can run into trouble, especially if you haven’t done it before. One of the biggest problems I had was figuring out how to get the milk out of the udder. Milking by hand was extremely hard  and time consuming for me. I have cerebral palsy and limited dexterity in my right hand. As a result, hand-milking was difficult.

Storing Goats Milk

A goat or two can eliminate the need to buy milk at the store. Sterile glass jars keep it clean and cold.

A Clean Routine

After struggling for a while, I started researching milking machines. Most will set you back a month’s wages. I discovered two or three inexpensive machines. Among the several hand-operated models, my favorite is a Dansha Farms milker, which has a rechargeable battery. This simple milker is perfect for the person who milks a few goats.

Dan Beffa from Dansha Farms knows milking like the back of his hand, and he is constantly helping people figure out the wonderful world of backyard milking.

“The first thing people must do when they decide to milk a cow or a goat is to get a routine down that ensures the milk will be clean and safe to drink. That is one of the biggest concerns people have when they get into milking. When someone understands how to take care of milk properly, the chances of getting sick are extremely small,” Beffa said.

He continued, “When I milk, I make sure all my equipment is disinfected before I use it so I know the milk will be clean.” 

Most people use some type of bleach. Before I attach my milker to the animal, I make sure the goat is clean. I clean her udder with a bleach solution, strip each teat by hand to get old milk out and then attach the milking device. One of the biggest reasons anyone should consider buying a milker of some type is because the milker helps keep the milk clean.

“With our milker, the milk is contained from the moment the milk leaves the teat so dirt, feces and debris won’t get into it. Our battery-powered milker pulls the milk out of the udder and brings it through a hose and it drops into a canning jar. This is an extremely easy and clean way to milk an animal,” Beffa added.

Milking by hand is hard on the hands, especially if you have arthritis. It can also be a dirty and time-consuming job. Having a milker makes the entire process much simpler and faster. Milking sans a machine takes me more than 20 minutes, while using a machine takes me about five minutes per goat.

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Keys to Tasty Milk

Getting the milk out of a dairy goat is only half the battle. After that, it must be properly taken care of to ensure that it tastes good and is safe to drink. If you ask the average person why he doesn’t like goat milk, one of the first things he will say is that it has a musty flavor or “goaty” taste. This can be true, but most of the time the reason goat’s milk has an off taste is because the milk was not properly taken care of. When it is, people often have a difficult time telling the difference between it and cow’s milk. 

The keys to having great-tasting milk are to make sure that you milk in a clean environment where manure and other things can’t contaminate the milk and to chill it as soon as possible after the milk is brought into the house.

“One of the main reasons I have goats is so I can get all of the health benefits that go along with drinking raw milk. Many people are scared of drinking raw milk, but I like getting all the extra vitamins and enzymes that you don’t consume when you pasteurize milk,” Beffa noted.

Dairy Goat

Goats are not only beneficial for their milk and meat. They also make lovable pets.

Pasteurizing Made Easy

Drinking milk raw or pasteurizing it is up to you. I drink some raw milk but pasteurize it for my kids. People think that pasteurizing milk is difficult, but it is not. To pasteurize my milk, I first strain it through a filter to make sure no debris is in it. Then I pour it into a double boiler and bring it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. After that, I immediately put the milk in a safe container and place it in an ice bath. I put the entire container (ice bath and all) in the refrigerator or freezer. I prefer the freezer. Once the milk has reached 38 degrees, I pull it out of the freezer and immediately put it in the refrigerator. 

The faster you can cool your milk down, the better it will taste. Some folks prefer a slower pasteurizing process. Some use a commercially built pasteurizer, but the double-boiler method I use is inexpensive and quick. I find that storing milk in a glass container works best. It keeps the milk extremely clean and cold.

Milking Once A Day

One question I often get asked is how time consuming milking is. Everyone who visits my house is very interested in dairy goats, but all are afraid of the commitment. I live a very busy life. I am a full-time writer and speaker and am often on the road. The only way I can fit milking into my schedule is by having a simple milker and milking only once a day. Most people will tell you that you must milk a goat or a cow twice a day. You do get a lot more milk doing it this way, but milking twice a day is more time consuming. 

To milk once a day, I must leave my goat’s kids with her 12 hours a day. So, every day, I let the kids stay with momma for about 12 hours, and then I separate the kids from momma for about 12 hours. When the 12 hours are up, I milk the goat. I don’t start milking the goat until the kids are approximately eight weeks old. The first eight weeks the kids have unlimited access to their mother. (If you want fresh milk year-round you will need more than one goat.) Do yourself a favor and milk your goat when it is most convenient for you and plan the kids’ schedule around yours. I milk at midnight most of the time, when I am done writing.

Another advantage to a milking device is that it simplifies the milking process and makes it less intimidating for someone else who milks for me when I travel. When I am on the road, my wife or my wife’s aunt handle the milking chores. After I showed them how to use the milker and oversaw them milking the dairy goat once or twice, they were able to do it on their own. Having a milker also decreases the probability of a goat not being milked out, which can cause health problems.

“Keep it simple stupid” is a phrase everyone hears but manufacturers often fail to comprehend. Dan Beffa has been successful and followed this rule. His simple milker is made of a battery-operated pump, a milk line, an air line and a glass jar. The beauty of this system is that it costs less than $100 and it actually works. I am able to milk my goat several times between charges, which makes this little device well worth the investment. Learn more at danshafarms.com, 850-464-2881.

dairy goat milking

Some people like to milk their dairy goat twice a day. The author prefers to milk his goat once a day to save time

Where To Start

If you are new to the process of milking a goat, you may want to start with a doe that has been around the block so she can teach you the process. When I first purchased a goat, she was pregnant for the first time and not used to being milked by a person. We learned together, but there were days where I was ready to turn her into goat burger. Today she comes running to my garage when I call her name and happily hops up onto the milking stand.  Of course, a goat hops up on the milking stand because she knows a treat will follow. I feed my dairy goat about a pound of grain a day during the milking season. This ensures that she produces plenty of milk and gives her something to eat while I am milking her.

Milk And Meat

One of the main reasons I like having a dairy goat is because it makes me more self-sufficient. I typically butcher the goat kids in the fall and put their meat in the freezer. As a result, I end up with milk and meat. Combine that with fresh eggs from the chickens and fresh bread and we need very little from the store. Organic milk is very expensive; producing it at home is not.

There is a wide array of dairy goat breeds to choose from so do your research. One thing is certain: If you have a family that drinks a lot of milk, having a dairy goat is a great option for you. Goats are fun to have around, intelligent and earn their keep. 

This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Fall 2014 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here

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