Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Which Way Do You Milk?

I've milked a number of goats over 32 years. Some my own but also a number of goats that were not. In our previous location I was called fairly often to do chores for neighbors. I've also milked not  animals not familiar to me until I latched on to their udders. If it is a horse or cow it can become exciting and needs to be done with skill and caution because of the potentially powerful kick that may follow. With goats, not so big a deal. There is a basic formula and the details the goat will let you know about in a hurry. One friend's goats let me know that were milked from the back while straddling the milk stand. For me pulling the udder backwards in this manner is awkward but who am I to argue. It just makes things more difficult and after all I'm only a brief visitor in their milking cycle.  Besides who wants goats that jump about and spill the milk?
As for me, I preferred the traditional front facing backwards position. You can see I've been doing this for years and years as this was a long time ago in another location. Most of my goats have a preference for this method. In part because the person I occasionally buy goats from using the same traditional milking style. A word of warning, this works great for does fully trained to the milk stand BUT...

But not so good with many new milkers which have a tendency not to keep their feet still. Flies, impatience, and being uncomfortable, all play into the their feet striking forward. Yup, right into the milk pail often ending up spilling the milk or standing in it. I can see you goat owners nodding your heads. We  have all experienced this. I've learned a few training tricks and milking positions that help prevent mishaps, enough for a whole other blog so you'll just have to wait in suspense. 

You can see why the traditional method of milking is the number one of choice among most milkers. The teats are or should be positioned to drain straight down into the pail. 

Yet, I do milk my does in varying positions at different times of the year and at different ages of the doe. During a heavy fly time of the year I put the pail behind the doe and milk into it so that when she kicks it is not liable to spill the milk. No matter what you do in a small operation it seems when fall peeks its head inside the door, the flies come biting with a vengeance. I train my does at a year old when they first freshen to stand in the middle of an open area - untethered - with just a little grain in a pan while I squat on the ground and milk. Most will even stand without the grain. Especially handy when you just want to fill a few baby bottles to feed kid. Warm from the tap is so much easier. And since I feed four times a day when the kids are newborn or especially small it saves time.  It also helps bring in the does milk much faster and at a greater rate of production. 

That is if I don't leave the kids on their mother. Why I leave some kids on their mother and why I bottle feed others is another blog worthy post. 
The third method is a modified version of the backwards facing position. I wrap my left arm around the goats right back leg and my right arm in between the legs. The bucket in the rear. This one is especially for Belle. Though I've modified many of her poor behavioral habits that she had when she arrived, this one is just not going away. She is the most bullheaded goat I've ever worked with. Not a high winding kick, just a low spasmodic kick, just enough to spill the milk. When she is especially bad, I tie the leg upward off the ground so she has to hold still or fall over. 

Other times she gets a "Bell..e!" in a perfect rendition of the Disney step-sisters on Cinderella when they call her to come hither to prepare them for the ball. Hear it? To counteract this angering habit, the pail is in the rear but I'm facing backwards with my arms twined unusually through her legs. The only set back is you have to make sure and not bump her legs and cause a kick. I usually rest my left arm against her right leg, the one that kicks, which helps remind her not to kick and lowers the number of times that she does it. This girl will not stay for much longer.

So.... which way do you milk? And why would be even more enlightening.  


  1. Hm, now I'm going to try the from-the-back position. I usually milk straight from the side, which is awkward if the doe kicks, or if she has very forward pointing teats. I haven't tried sitting as far forward as you do in the photo, I will try that as well and see which I like better. I don't know why I've been milking from such an awkward position - straight sideways. I guess thats how I did it as a small child and I just never modified. Thanks for this post, it's an education!

    1. I have not tried the straight sideways position. It does seem a bit awkward when I think about it. One of the reasons I sit further back is I can shove my forearm sideways in a defensive position to block the leg from coming forward when they try to kick and still hang on to the teat. I'll show that one when I post about working with first time milkers or kickers. Thank you so much for commenting.