How to Milk a Goat . . . The RIGHT Way!

Greetings guys! Settle in, because today's a biggie: we're are going to learn how to milk a goat. It's actually a really easy thing to do, but when people first start milking it can be a little tricky. What we are going to do is to walk you through the whole process from start to finish to see how we milk a goat and produce clean, healthy, raw milk at Atitlan Organics. We really recommend watching the video with this blog, as a lot of what we're describing is easier to capture visually. Enjoy!

The Milking Schedule:

Here at Atitlan Organics we milk twice a day. Even though they say it's good to milk at 12 hour interval, our schedule doesn't really fit that schedule. So we milk at 7 am and 4:30 pm, so it's not quite 12 hours and therefore there is more milk in the morning and less milk in the afternoon. But I urge people to pick a milking schedule that works for you. You can even milk only once a day, and your goats will adjust. 

Goat Feed:

When we start we first get our scale, because we weigh the food that the goats eat morning and evening, and we also weigh the amount of milk that they give. So the first step is to weigh out our food. We feed the goats 8 ounces/half pound/about 1/4 kilo of whole corn. Any corn that drops the goats will just eat. Next I add some minerals to the corn. We add diatomaceous earth, which Is a white powder that comes from fossilized sea creatures. This is an anti-parasitic and it helps with fur and bone health because it's high food-grade silica. This is a great natural de-wormer and just general preventive health care for goats. We also add a probiotic, which is brown and has things like molasses and other micro-nutrients  in it. And it actually smells like cakes, sometimes you want to eat it, because it just smells so delicious! This is very good for helping their rumen function properly. We add some pink all-purpose rock salt mineral; it's just a basic thing that you can use for any livestock. Next we add kelp, which is dried seaweed or algae from the ocean, and this has high iodine along with many other minerals. This kelp helps prevent pink eye, which can become a problem, and it also helps keep immune system functioning properly. Finally, the fifth mineral that we add daily is dolomite or calcium magnesium. This is helpful in maintaining alkaline conditions in the body, and especially in the udder. This helps prevent mastatis, and makes sure that there is enough of the calcium that the goat needs to continue producing good quantity and quality milk, while maintaining her health. Aside from the minerals that we use daily, we also use copper every six months. This is called a copper supplement called "Copasur." The copper is super important; as a side note, goats have the highest demand of copper for any domesticated animal. The levels of copper that would keep a goat healthy are actually toxic to other domesticated animals like sheep or cows. We found that this Copasur applied every 6 months is a perfect fix of the copper that they need. The copper helps the immune system strong, it helps prevent mastitis, and it also just makes them look a lot better. You can spot copper deficiency by noticing if your goats hair is frayed at the end like split ends, or if it has a rough texture. If there is a really extreme copper deficiency, you may even see bald patches. But even if it's less extreme bald patches on the tail, will be a sign that your goats need copper. I spend so much time on the minerals because I believe that it's the minerals that maintain the health of the goats. Using minerals to keep your livestock healthy also ensures that the manure  they give is mineral rich and will mineralize the land every time you add fertilizer. In order to add all these minerals, which exist in only small quantities in the goats diet, we use wheat bran. This is used as a vehicle for the minerals. So when we have our corn weighed out to 8 ounces, we add a little bit of the wheat bran. We don't really worry about exact weight, we just put a couple of little handfuls and then we go through and add each of our minerals. In the afternoon the goats get only 8 ounces of corn, they do not get the wheat bran or any minerals.

Prep the Area:

Once the food is weighed we then need to prepare everything we need to actually milk the goats. So we re-tare our scale to our milking pail, and we tare it to zero again in order to be able to measure all the milk. Next we have our milking pail, which is just a stainless steel pot. And we have a cheesecloth, that we boil twice a day. And a strainer again that gets boiled. The cheesecloth acts to get all the little bits of hair that might fall into the milking pail. So when we take the milk from the goat, it goes directly into the milking pale. Then we pass it through the cheesecloth and strainer directly into our stainless steel milk receptacle.

Now on to the goat itself. The first thing I do is to bring a cloth that's been soaking in bleach water--a very, very small amount of bleach diluted in water--and with this cloth we clean the teats, the legs, thighs, and buttocks  of the goat to reduce the amount of hair and dirt that will fall into the milking pail. 

Milk That Goat!

Here we are. I often like to tell people that when you're working with goats they can be kind of stubborn, and so they're going to try to get the best of you a couple of times. You can start by holding her leg with you left hand. At the beginning that might be what you have to do, but soon you'll start to learn the timing and signs of when she's about to try a kick. When you spot that coming, it's time to really maintain the strength. When you have the goat steady, the trick to milking is to make a circle with your pointer finger and your thumb. And you use this to trap the milk in the teat. You close it firmly around the teat, and then with the last two or three of your fingers you press the teat against the palm of your hand. So, again, you trap the milk, press it out, you trap it, press it out, you trap it down there, you press it out. There's almost like a little button right there, that you use with your pointer finger and you trap the milk, you press it out. When you get good, you can start to do it with two hands. When the udder is really full, it's harder to get it to go straight because the udder is pretty tight, but as it empties out it just starts to go in. So when you get good you can do one hand and the other, and continue alternating like that. As you're finishing up you'll see that the udder is no longer as tight as it was at the beginning, and you can start to massage it. You really want to massage the udder from top to bottom. You actually feel there's two bags, and on the inside you can feel it kind of wraps up, tightens up in there.  You want to massage those bags and drive the milk down into the teats, so you can do the same trick as before: trap the milk, squeeze it out, trap it, squeeze it out. And then massage it, massage it down. And you really want to strip it. This is actually the most important step. When we teach new people, apprentices and stuff, how to milk, the number one concern that I have is that they don't take out all the milk. Every time you milk you must make sure to milk the goat completely. If you leave some milk, can lead to infection and to mastatis, and that's really bad for the goat and for you if you want to have milk. When you massage the teat thoroughly and nothing is coming out that's the sign that she's done. 

Clean-Up:

OK, so now we have taken our milk, and what we're going to do is to put it on the scale weigh it. I then make a note in our farm notebook, which says how much milk each goat is producing. Now that we've weighed it, we pass the milk through our cheesecloth lined strainer and right into our pot. 

When the milk is all poured through, we cover it well to keep it protected from dust and flies, and our milk is good to go. To wrap it up, I will walk Virginia back to the goat house where she will relax until about 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. At that point all the goats go out for a two-hour walk, and on this walk they eat all kind of plants. That's actually where the majority of their food comes from. After milking in the afternoon we give them some green material that we cut during the walk, and that holds them over till the morning when we start it all over again. 

Finally, everything has to be rinsed and cleaned. I like to take the first rinsing of milk pail, which is the milk diluted into water and high in protein, minerals, and probiotic, and spread this evenly across the hen food, meat bird food, and the dog food so taht they all benefit from what would otherwise be waste. Once we've done the first rinsing I do a more thorough rinse, and then we bring boiling water and wash all four pieces of equipment that have touched the milk. So we strongly recommend a first rinse, a second rinse, both in cold water, and then a final scalding. THe last step: enjoy a cup of fresh milk. Cheers!

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 Atitlan Organics blog

Studying Permaculture and Natural Building in Guatemala offers amazing opportunities to learn from indigenous cultures, rich natural patterns, and enormous diversity. Permaculture in Central America is representative of the edge effect or Edge Valuing Principle of Design. As one of the world’s centres of biodiversity, Central America attracts people from all over the world interested in learning through nature. Permaculture practices and can be seen in action via the surviving indigenous traditions that are common in Guatemala. Studying permaculture and natural building in Central America offers designers great opportunities to learn from diverse groups of people in incredibly diverse natural settings.