Milking a Goat?

So you are new to goats? And you decided to have meat goat and not to have dairy goats cause you don't want to have to milk goats? You have never milked a goat? Never wanted to milk anything? Never considered milking a goat? Didn't know milking was an option?

We were like that, never considered milking a goat, after all we had meat goats, not dairy goats. Well Alma was a Nubian, but the guy we bought her from used her to get percentage boers.

That was the way we were thinking. Why would we ever need to milk? Then Bertha had triples, and developed a case of mastitis...

When we had to hospitalize Bertha at the Animal Clinic in Pulaski with a mild case of mastitis, we determined we had another major problem: hungry triplets. At least we thought they should be hungry

The first step was to get milk. Not a problem. We had a Nubian, Alma, who had given birth the same day as Bertha; and Alma had plenty milk for her single kid and the triplets. (At this time it never occurred to us that Bertha might come home from the Animal Clinic and reject her kids because she sensed another goat's milk on/in them.)

We had both milked cows before; could goats be that much different? (And while we had both milked cows, I probably should add here it had been well over 40 years since either of us had considered milking anything!) But we were confident; we could do this.

While I held Alma's head to keep her from running away, Ken got into position to milk. The first thing we noticed was goat teats are considerably smaller than Jerseys'. And almost immediately we realized that while Alma was a "milk goat" she had probably never been milked in her life. Great – an inexperienced goat! After about 30 minutes we managed to get enough milk to fill one 8 oz. baby bottle.

Little did we know, milking was the easy part. Seems the three babies had grown accustomed, in one short day, to their mother's milk and really didn't want to have anything to do with the bottle or Alma's milk. With great effort on our part, we finally managed to squirt about an ounce of milk in each of the bucklings' mouths and got about two ounces into the tiny doeling. The remaining four ounces was either on the ground or on us.

Unfortunately, this procedure – milk Alma, fill bottle, plead with babies to drink – had to be repeated several times. Fortunately, Bertha was only in the Animal Clinic overnight, and apparently we hadn't gotten enough milk in the babies for Bertha to reject them.

But our milking days weren't over. Bertha had to be "milked out" twice a day for a week – until the signs of mastitis were gone. And if we thought Alma, a milk goat, was hard to milk, Bertha was a nightmare! We tied her to the barn, and one of us would have to hold her leg while the other tried to milk her. She was not a happy goat. Finally we called on the experts: Bertie and Paul Hillhouse came to the rescue.

Milking a Fullblood Boer

The first thing Bertie did was squeeze some milk on both hands. According to Bertie, a goat (or cow) will "let the milk down" if the milker has wet hands. We had been very gently tugging at the ends of the teats with our fingers; Bertie grabbed the entire teat with her whole hand and squeezed while pulling down. Instead of the few droplets we had been getting, suddenly there was a stream of milk.

Lessons learned: have wet hands, and don't worry about hurting the goat. (You should, though, be concerned about the goat hurting you. Until they become accustomed to being milked, they tend to want to walk all over you. Kicking is not unheard of.) Another lesson learned: try not have have any bottle babies!

It didn't take us long to also learn milking is hard on the back of the milker. We had a little milk stool our daughter-in-law had sent from Germany, possibly as a joke. That helped. But since our goats really didn't like the idea of being milked, that tended to attempt to wander off – or at least get away from us and our stool.

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Ken and Pat Motes
Clear Creek Farms
33 South Clear Creek Road
Fall River, Tennessee 38468
Phone: (931) 852-2167
Fax: (931) 852-2168

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