Saturday, February 28, 2009

Learning how to milk, and the repercussions

Obviously if an academic sort of person from suburbia is going to buy a milking goat, she should learn how to milk.

I went back to Judy's for that purpose. She invited me to come at milking time and watch, and take a hand at milking Monique. (See earlier post explaining about Monique.)

So I went at twilight on a July evening with one or more of our three children, whoever was interested at the time. And we watched Judy milk.

What you do is: Wash the udder, dry the udder, squeeze the teats.

Yes, that's what real goat people call them, and we're not going to get squeamish here over a technical term. They rhyme with meats.

Here's how it's done:

1. Wash the goat's udder all over with a very dilute solution of Basic H in warm water.
2. Dry the udder with a paper towel or dish towel or clean rag (aka old dish towel).
3. Close off the top of the teat, right next to the bag, between the base of the forefinger and the thumb, one hand per teat. (Tricky: this is a two-handed operation. Or as goat people say, "If God had intended people to milk cows, he would have given them 4 hands." Two is just right for goats, who have two teats.)
4. Squirt a tiny amount of milk into the wash bucket, onto the dirt floor, or into the waiting cat's mouth. This is to get rid of the milk that has accumulated at the end of the teat where bacteria might grow in it.
5. Place the clean milk pail on the milking bench (more about this in another post) and begin to milk by squeezing the teat from top to bottom. The easiest way is to add successive fingers. (It helps to watch.). Continue in a rhythmic fashion, about one squeeze per every 2 seconds or so. You can alternate hands or do them together. The milk will begin to flow as it 'lets down'.
6. When the milk flow subsides, massage the bag gently and squeeze again, repeating until the milk stops squirting out. Then strip the teats to get the last of the milk from them. They will look empty.
7. Wash the bag and teats again.

That is how it is done. Not the first time, necessarily, though. I got a squirt or two the first night. But I just loved it! I went back many times...

The trouble with visiting Judy's is that she had more than Monique. She had several goats. One was named Elegant. She was tiny - someone had neglected her and Judy had come to the rescue. Guess what happened next?


Real said...

So, is there no disinfecting of the teats then? Anytime I've seen cows milked the milker uses a solution of what looks like Iodine or something to disinfect before milking. Because I'm just thinking of a goat around all that poop and wondering if just a good old plain washing is enough....

Peg Lewis said...

We took our guidance from what we read. Some did a dip, iodine or germicide. Some said it made no difference. So we tried without: the dips are hard on the teats and they become dry and cracked.

We washed well to get rid of debris and hair, then dried thoroughly. We squirted out the first milk, which is where the bacteria would be able to grow and have an opportunity to grow, then milked. Even after sitting in a home-washed glass jar for a week, no sourness or other sign of bacterial activity appeared.

The teats are naturally germ-free, and as long as we got the dirt off, we seemed to be fine. The milk doesn't touch the outside of the teats in any case, but we certainly didn't want any dust from the barn in the milk. To make sure none got in the bottle, we filtered the milk as soon as we got back to the house.

Thanks for asking!