Aug 31, 2009

Milking Goats

Recently Tim and I spoke to a group of goat producers on how to start a dairy. Part of the presentation included pictures of our dairy and how we do things. As I was filing away those notes for posterity it occurred to me that it would be fun to share the pictures one more time before mothballing them. The daughter doing most of the work in the pictures is Sara. Each month one of our older children are "in charge" or milking. They are responsible to make sure that all of the supplies that we need are stocked up, they gather the goats and then they milk with either Tim or myself.

Milking starts by the goats being let into an alleyway that leads from their pasture (above) to the dairy. Usually all it takes is for them to see someone walking towards that gate and they all start running for the gate. They know it is milking time. They usually have udders that are full by then, and appreciate that milking empties them. They are personable and like being petted and getting attention. Mostly, though, they know that milking equals feeding time, and especially, treat time.

The goats come in to the dairy side of the building. When we decided to produce pasteurized milk we had to get what is known as a "milk plant" license. This allows us to pasteurize and bottle the milk. We are held to the same standards as Borden Dairy or any other large milk plant, just on micro scale. All milk used in the milk plant has to come from a Grade A dairy. So the right side of the building is the dairy side, with the "Raw for Retail" license that allows us to sell raw milk. The left side of the building is licensed as a milk plant. The goats come in trough a small plexiglass door, barely seen over the top of Nyasa's back in this picture. When they are done milking they will exit through the regularly sized door barely seen (in gray) behind Princess' rump. The goats come in happily for their feed, as you can see. From front to rear, they are Pedernales (LaMancha), Princess (Alpine), Sonnet (LaMancha) and Nyasa (Alpine).

One of the first steps in milking is to squeeze the first few squirts of milk into a "strip cup". The strip cup has a fine mesh sieve on the top so that we can closely examine the milk. Healthy milk usually looks like, well, healthy milk! The mesh will catch anything odd such as off textured or colored milk. This will give us a heads-up that we need to look further. Sometimes cream will be caught in the mesh but you pretty quickly learn to tell that apart from anything more ominous. The other reason to remove those first few squirts is that the goats usually spend lots of time lying on the ground. Consequently the first few squirts may be higher in bacteria from bacteria being on the teat ends.

The teats are cleaned with a cleaning solution, paying special attention to the orifices, or openings at the end of the teats.

The milking machine is attached, taking care to make sure that they are on properly and that there is not undue suction on the teat.

When the udder is empty the milking machine is removed and the teat ends are dipped in an antibacterial solution that is high is moisturizers to keep their udder healthy. This is because that opening remains open for a short period and we want to make sure that no bacteria can get up inside the udder before the orifice closes.

All done...except for letting the goats go back to their pasture. Which they often do not want to do. Or will flat-out refuse to do unless they have been rewarded with their animal-cracker treat.

Sadly, it takes more than an animal cracker to satisfy Sara these days. Teenagers. Sigh.

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