I raised, bred, birthed and milked milch goats for over a decade. There is no finer milk in the world than goat milk. Most of the world drinks goat milk and eats goat meat.
Let us set the record straight before we get started. If you run your male goats with the female goats he will, in goat behavior, exude an oily secretion from his neck and as that “musk” works its way down to his chest he will urinate on himself. When he mounts a female to mark her with his scent (and they do this year round without actually breeding), he passes his scent into the blood stream of the female and her milk tastes really rotten. If you wish to avoid this musk you must keep the intact males separate from the females.
This is the first secret to fresh, sweet tasting milk.
Next we need to care for the female goat to prevent mastitis- the pre-cancerous hard lumpy swelling in the goat’s udder. All mammals are susceptible to mastitis. Other infections may spring forth from improper care of the goat’s udder resulting in a loss of a fine animal with undue suffering. The second thing I want to get straight about goats is that Vets are trained into horse, cattle and small animal care-few have any knowledge about goats. You are solely responsible for caring for your beloved goat.
A female goat, following the birthing will offer “first milk”- colostrum to the two “kids” (baby goat terminology). A desired birth is two babies and it is vital to place each baby on a separate teat. Notice that circling each teat is a set of little bumps- just like we have. These are scent markers that tell the baby which teat is theirs. Many human mothers comment that in breast-feeding some babies only favor one breast and not the other. This is because of the scent markers.
Much ado is made about colostrum, but the baby goat will grow fine and strong without it. Simply put, sometimes the first colostrum is bloody, suspicious in quality and needs to be “milked out” which is only a few squirts anyway. More on this when we talk about birthing babies. It is always advisable to have a dry bag of goat milk replacer on hand in case the mother goat is dry, or has health issues.
It is indeed delightful to see a mother goat and two babies in the field with the babies nibbling grasses and taking a sip from the mother. If both baby goats are “set” upon the same teat, you will see a sharing, but it will cause a lopsided udder, and open the goat to infections. If you have only one baby goat you will have to take another newborn and start it on the other teat-the adoption process in goats is acceptable if you do it at time of birthing. Quite often you will have three and even four baby goats born to a mother and in natures wild, the latter in the delivery will be smaller, less healthy and die off leaving the two largest and first two in the birth order to hopefully survive. If you have but one baby goat you will have to milk out the other teat. This does not make the mother happy- so see below for milking out the goat and bottle-feeding the baby goat.
Goats are man’s second domesticated animals, and so being around forever have adapted to a symbiotic relationship with the goat herder. You must care for your stock.
Notice the baby goats will butt the udder and take only sips, sometimes engulfing the entire teat. The butting lets the milk down and the sips keep the opening to the teat tiny and closed to keep out infections.
My personal joy was not placing the baby goats on the mother but separating the babies- in a separate pen- and milking the mother out, then bottle-feeding the babies. This makes for a superior developing goat- more work of course, but if you are fantasying about milch goats, this is a way to go.
This is the third secret of good milk.
Before I learned (the hard way of course), I milked ten milkers a day, twice a day for 9 months, milking with an average 4 to 5 hours a day. There is a better method than this.
To have milk you must breed your female goat to the male. Let us consider you have a separate, oak fenced, very sturdy housing for the intact breeding male- in fact you will need at least two males-separate as one could be ill, or die most inconveniently on you when you want to service the female. Later we will talk about Artificial Insemination, which is better, but you still need an intact “teaser” male goat.
Let us consider this topic of artificial insemination for a later article. This is the fourth secret in good milking as you will have access to thousands of superior bucks that make superior baby goats which become superior milkers in time.
I am getting a bit into breeding now but to cut to the chase: you do not want to breed all your does at the same time. The fifth secret is to breed your goats in 90-day cycles, overlapping about one month apart. So if you have ten milkers, you breed the first one at summer equinox (July) adding a Vitamin E supplement. You have to watch them super closely as a standing heat can be just a few minutes. Later when the September solstice rolls around a standing heat can be for an hour. It is amusing to see the girls all standing staring dumbly at the male while he is blathering his tongue and urinating on himself to attract his object of desire (always separated by sturdy fencing).
So with a month in-between the milkers, and milking on a three-month cycle, then drying off by not milking, you have healthier animals and superior production. Agreed this requires you to just about live with the goats, and the spouse will chase you and your goaty odor out of the house, but what the heck, this is what you do.
Notice that the mother goat will continue to walk and graze the pasture with the two baby goats on each side of her but after 90 days, give or take a day, she will start to butt the babies and force them to leave her alone. This is natural. Even if you are milking the goat out yourself, she will at the 90-day point become obstinate and refuse to cooperate. A 90-day cycle is normal. If you continue to keep milking her as most New York Apartment goat expert writers profess to do and gain 9 months, and even a years milking, you are exhausting your precious goat.
Notice the fat pad at the goat’s hips. In the beginning of the season when you are milking it is fat and the hipbones do not show that much. As you milk through the season, that fat pad shrinks and you have a hippy goat. You do not want to buy a hippy goat – it is worn out. That pad will all but disappear in three months and if you are milking longer you are taking vital body tissue away from the goat – you are killing her.
Granted you can, and I have done this, milk her out in three cycles, but after each cycle she drops her production drastically and it is not worth the labor, time, or little volume of milk. When she is in her “I do not want to be milked cycle,” think of it as PMS – she is a real obstinate person.
Now that winds up five secrets of goat milking and goat health.
We need to mention that it is a waste of your money and it does the goat no value, or other livestock for that matter to feed them molasses soaked poor quality grain. A goat that is fed grain after her milking will do well with a cup to two cups of oats, grains, sunflower seeds, and some chopped carrots. Then after an hour they are turned to their alfalfa-timothy quality hay. Molasses feeds are a way of getting rid of inferior seed, secondly it addicts the animal to sugar, which they do not need, neither do you – think diabetes.
Before the birthing you will need to give her a “dairy clip” with a quality hair-cutting tool such as an A-5 clipper. You will need a loose cutting blade to clip off from the front legs underneath, over the udder and back behind the rear legs. She will look odd in a dairy clip, but you also need to use a double O shaver clip especially on the udder since your dairy barn is not the clean flower laden Alps. Your barn is dirty and she lies in the old goat poop, and whatever else poops in the barn. This falls off into the milking bowl and will turn your sweet milk into a sour mess.
So with a close dairy clip, you want to start getting her used to getting on the milking stand – a raised platform that makes your life easier – and start massaging her gently (remember the baby goats). She will be uncooperative of course but this is training. You can increase her desire to be on the milking stand by baking some special treats.
2 cups whole-wheat flour
3/4-cup corn meal
1-teaspoon sea salt for minerals
¼ cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
¼ cup unsulfured molasses
2 small eggs mixed with ¼ cup of milk
Mix dry ingredients, then add molasses – knead into dough, rest and then cut in small squares. Brush some egg and milk on the dough. Bake at 350F for an hour, or more, until very hard. Your dogs will love these cookies too.
The herd will start sniffing and follow you all over the yard – begging.
Also construct a 1-foot square wood box, open top with 6” sides. Mix Dolomite Agricultural limestone (Calcium-Magnesium) with Sheep and Goat Mineral mix (High Iodine base) at 50-50 proportions. Bolt this to a barn beam or they will pull it off. This is for the milkers. Just give the separated male goat(s) the Sheep and Mineral Iodine store bought mix from Southern States. This is in a salt base and will harden up in dampness-keep it in a plastic pail with a tight lid. This will keep them healthy.
Overall goats are very trainable but they are strong so do not expect your 9 year old daughter to manage one except in the goat’s sweet cycle.
Once the birthing has finished, place the baby goat in the special 5’X5’ secure pen. You are ready to milk the mother. More on birthing goats this next January or February.
Lead her to the stand (I used a milk house set up for cows). Wash the udder with a mild soapy water solution and add a few drops of an iodine disinfectant. Dry the udder so this solution does not drip into the milk bowl. Keep messaging and if you sing, they will be more responsive. I cannot sing, but I used a radio. Play nice Mozart. Look at the teat opening. It should be closed. Look at the udder, it should be firm, mildly swollen with milk and as you progress free from lumps and free of what might feel like a piece of wood. That is mastitis and this tissue does not produce milk. This will probably become cancerous, and your goat will suffer.
Now take the teat in your hand and gently close your thumb and forefinger around the teat about a quarter of the way from the top where the teat joins the udder. You will be able to feel a muscle. You do not want to squeeze this muscle as this muscle is controlled by the goat to let her milk down into the teat.
Close your thumb and forefinger around the teat and move your other three fingers in a rhythmic 1-2-3 movement gently squeezing the milk out. The first three squirts are to clean out the teat. You can squirt this into a clean black cup to check for goo, smell, blood, etc. to keep an eye on the goat’s health.
Now the fun begins. There is an automatic reflex in the goat or maybe it is a mischievous moment, but the rear leg will kick forward and turn your milking bowl over, or maybe she will step in it. If so, the milk is ruined. I would wedge my shoulder into the goat’s side so she could not kick. Bringing my arm around so that one hand was on one teat and the other hand on the other teat. Periodically, depending upon the goat’s mood, and they are usually sweet, I would dump the milk into a waiting covered bucket hanging on a weight scale. In later years I never bothered with the weight scale, having gained a sense of looking at volume rather than weight. Spoiled milk went to the forever waiting cats.
DO NOT PULL THE TEAT downward to extract milk as shown in movies, and by the unknowing. Gently squeeze in a 1-2-3 movement and you beat out any other milkers in a competition in a tournament at the Fair. Plus the animal will be more content and look forward to milking. After all a full, swollen udder hurts. You are the baby goat.
After you have squeezed gently with the fingers moving downward you are bumping upwards at the same time, mimicking a baby goat. This causes the goat to let down milk into the teat as you open your hand, then closing again to capture the milk in the teat and repeating the cycle. This is the proper way.
When you have squeezed the last it is time to look at the teat end and you will notice it has an enlarged hole. This hole will close in time but unfortunately it allows dirt and bacteria to enter and work its way upward into the udder.
Your task is to now “dip” the teat. There are a number of teat dipping solutions on the market, most using an iodine base disinfectant.
It is my observation that the iodine-based solutions are about 30% protective. If you have the dreaded beginnings of mastitis, or want a better solution I recommend the following home made protectant.
August is the time the Poke plant is in coming into full development and the flowering is causing black Poke Berries to hang down. You will want to dig up the Poke plant to get to the roots. Dig up a lot of roots. Use Gloves. Dry the roots in a dryer, or a window box, so that they are quite hard. Next clean and cut them into small slices, then place them in a blender and blenderize into a powder.
The next step is to take the powder, which if dry will keep well in a storage container such as a canning jar, mix a teaspoon of the powder and cover with vodka or similar 80 proof alcohol. Just enough to cover the powder. Cover; let it set a week or more, turning every so often. We are not making a tincture per se, just extracting the anti-mastitis essence. This may be too complicated or impractical for you so make a tea by infusing the ground up root, a teaspoon in a pint of boiling water.
Next you will use a quart of Witch Hazel- full strength, not watered down. Place the extract, (filtering through a coffee paper organic brown filter) into the Witch Hazel, add about 10% glycerin. Also, add about a ½ pint of Calendula tincture, preferably Mexican Marigold tincture; shake well. Let stand open in the air for a day and the alcohol will evaporate. Sniff to make sure there is no alcohol left as when we use this solution for teat dipping you do not want to irritate the upper inside of the teat.
You can also make Calendula oil-a most wonderful antibacterial agent and healer by soaking Calendula flowers and leaves in a container of olive oil, set in the window sunlight for a few days. This oil can also be rubbed and messaged into the udders for soreness and for our teat dipping with a small deep cup.
The Poke plant root is a specific for mastitis.
The Calendula will create an anti-bacterial effect and the witch hazel, as a gentle astringent, will help get the medicinal properties up and into the teat. The left over solution may be used for repeated dips as long as it is clean.
If you do not choose to try this approach you must still “dip” the teat and an iodine solution probably is best of the commercial preparations.
TO TREAT a case of MASTITIS externally, you can chop up COMFREY leaves in a blender, or as I do, in a meat grinder into a macerated goo. By applying the COMFREY externally you may reduce the mastitis in time. Keep massaging. Ensure the udder is dry before letting the goat out to lie in the barn. Wet or greasy udders attract dirt. COMFREY is the absolute best singular herb we can use for all healings and when combined with CADENDULA and POKE ROOT (any other part of the Poke plant is TOXIC) with RED CLOVER (see below) you have a winner.
I must add that in goat supplies you will see an udder support, or you can make one easily that can be a protective for the herbal essences you message into the udder, it will protect and lengthen the curative powers of the herbs.
I have learned of late to actually cook all the above herbs in a lard base until just about black in color, coat the udder and then slip the udder support on the goat which increases the time of healing and eliminates dirt adherence. Keep the herbal tinctures and salves refrigerated.
There is one more herb you can use, although you will have to order it, or grow it yourself in your herb garden: RED CLOVER (this is the latest hotly researched herb for cancer) Add RED CLOVER leaves, stems and flowers in equal volume to the Poke root, macerated COMFREY, and macerated CALENDULA. This is for MASTITIS, and CANCER, although I must employ my disclaimer, as I have no idea on how you may choose to use it. This is for EXTERNAL use only that I have found curative for my goats. This 300-year-old farm is just full of ancient virulent bacterium.
There is considerable debate over pasteurizing milk. If I had a cow I would certainly pasteurize the milk- the risk is too great not to. Cows carry the dreaded Brucellosis bacterium- goats are less likely to carry this bacterium. For goats I used a home pasturizer when we had the children at home. For us, I did not. Also it is interesting that as we age, we do not digest milk as well as we do cheese. Goat’s milk makes wonderful cheese. Goat milk is considered to be the “Universal Food”. Everybody thrives on it.
Pasteurizing goat’s milk is viewed as unnecessary BUT there are other organisms that exist in all milk-producing animals, and if your animals are unhealthy, or your milking methods are unsanitary I would advise pasteurization after straining the milk.
As a disclaimer I assume no responsibility how you care for your animals or expose them to unsafe practices. The herbal approach is based on my personal experience and for Back2theLand people who have no other options after consulting the veterinarian’s service.
Copyright: 2009, Back2theLand, Mark Steel