Milking a goat is not an activity that comes naturally to a human–at least not to this human. It took a couple of days to fall into a rhythm with Cindy and, after all, being milked was a totally new experience for her.
After spending the first two days trying unsuccessfully to get her into the milking stand, I read everything I could find about how to gently coax a goat to a safe milking position. Up until then, I was milking her on the move, putting food in front of her and hoping not to get kicked. This was a bad approach and on the second night, I just ended up letting her go unmilked.
The key, I discovered, was only feeding her in the milking stand. Where we had previously left food out for her to eat when she wanted, now we were going to only feed when it was time to milk. This worked almost immediately. Within two milkings, I would come in to the shed to find her like this:
We affixed a feeder to the wall and, as soon as it is filled, she willingly puts her head through the head catch and starts munching away. Once she is secured, I can get to work.
There are a number of items one needs to milk. There is the milking vessel (we use Ball jars), the udder wash (a solution of water, bleach, and dish soap), paper towels to dry the udder, feed, raisins (Cindy LOVES these), and a small Dixie cup for a teat “dunk” at the end. At first, I was carrying a bushel basket with all the supplies back and forth. I quickly realized that a shelf with waterproof boxes was a much smarter solution. We had a perfect plank of scrap wood lying around, so I just picked up some supports at the hardware store, along with three small bins, and life was instantly easier.
First off, Cindy’s udders had started to look red and chapped. We certainly didn’t want to cause her any undue pain, so we read about a necessary udder wash, followed by something called Bag Balm. Bag Balm is a greasy ointment that you massage onto the cleaned, milked udders to help relieve chapping. This stuff is wondrous. It worked almost immediately and Cindy seemed to have no discomfort at all once the chapping had been dealt with.
We are milking twice a day and, in just a week, our interactions have become fairly uneventful. Cindy waits for me on the stand, gratefully munches her pellets and raisins, and generously gives anywhere from a pint to a quart of milk at a time.
We have been drinking some of the milk and about three quarts of it made its way down to our Brooklyn restaurant to be made into ricotta cheese. Now, we are collecting a gallon to be made into chevre. We will report back when that project is complete!