How to Milk a Goat . . . The RIGHT Way!

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    Greetings guys! Settle in, because today’s a biggie: we’re are going to learn how to milk a goat. It’s actually a really easy thing to do, but when people first start milking it can be a little tricky. What we are going to do is to walk you through the whole process from start to finish to see how we milk a goat and produce clean, healthy, raw milk at Atitlan Organics. We really recommend watching the video with this blog, as a lot of what we’re describing is easier to capture visually. Enjoy!

    The Milking Schedule:

    Here at Atitlan Organics we milk twice a day. Even though they say it’s good to milk at 12 hour interval, our schedule doesn’t really fit that schedule. So we milk at 7 am and 4:30 pm, so it’s not quite 12 hours and therefore there is more milk in the morning and less milk in the afternoon. But I urge people to pick a milking schedule that works for you. You can even milk only once a day, and your goats will adjust. 

    Goat Feed:

    When we start we first get our scale, because we weigh the food that the goats eat morning and evening, and we also weigh the amount of milk that they give. So the first step is to weigh out our food. We feed the goats 8 ounces/half pound/about 1/4 kilo of whole corn. Any corn that drops the goats will just eat. Next I add some minerals to the corn. We add diatomaceous earth, which Is a white powder that comes from fossilized sea creatures. This is an anti-parasitic and it helps with fur and bone health because it’s high food-grade silica. This is a great natural de-wormer and just general preventive health care for goats. We also add a probiotic, which is brown and has things like molasses and other micro-nutrients  in it. And it actually smells like cakes, sometimes you want to eat it, because it just smells so delicious! This is very good for helping their rumen function properly. We add some pink all-purpose rock salt mineral; it’s just a basic thing that you can use for any livestock. Next we add kelp, which is dried seaweed or algae from the ocean, and this has high iodine along with many other minerals. This kelp helps prevent pink eye, which can become a problem, and it also helps keep immune system functioning properly. Finally, the fifth mineral that we add daily is dolomite or calcium magnesium. This is helpful in maintaining alkaline conditions in the body, and especially in the udder. This helps prevent mastatis, and makes sure that there is enough of the calcium that the goat needs to continue producing good quantity and quality milk, while maintaining her health. Aside from the minerals that we use daily, we also use copper every six months. This is called a copper supplement called “Copasur.” The copper is super important; as a side note, goats have the highest demand of copper for any domesticated animal. The levels of copper that would keep a goat healthy are actually toxic to other domesticated animals like sheep or cows. We found that this Copasur applied every 6 months is a perfect fix of the copper that they need. The copper helps the immune system strong, it helps prevent mastitis, and it also just makes them look a lot better. You can spot copper deficiency by noticing if your goats hair is frayed at the end like split ends, or if it has a rough texture. If there is a really extreme copper deficiency, you may even see bald patches. But even if it’s less extreme bald patches on the tail, will be a sign that your goats need copper. I spend so much time on the minerals because I believe that it’s the minerals that maintain the health of the goats. Using minerals to keep your livestock healthy also ensures that the manure  they give is mineral rich and will mineralize the land every time you add fertilizer. In order to add all these minerals, which exist in only small quantities in the goats diet, we use wheat bran. This is used as a vehicle for the minerals. So when we have our corn weighed out to 8 ounces, we add a little bit of the wheat bran. We don’t really worry about exact weight, we just put a couple of little handfuls and then we go through and add each of our minerals. In the afternoon the goats get only 8 ounces of corn, they do not get the wheat bran or any minerals.

    Prep the Area:

    Once the food is weighed we then need to prepare everything we need to actually milk the goats. So we re-tare our scale to our milking pail, and we tare it to zero again in order to be able to measure all the milk. Next we have our milking pail, which is just a stainless steel pot. And we have a cheesecloth, that we boil twice a day. And a strainer again that gets boiled. The cheesecloth acts to get all the little bits of hair that might fall into the milking pail. So when we take the milk from the goat, it goes directly into the milking pale. Then we pass it through the cheesecloth and strainer directly into our stainless steel milk receptacle.

    Now on to the goat itself. The first thing I do is to bring a cloth that’s been soaking in bleach water–a very, very small amount of bleach diluted in water–and with this cloth we clean the teats, the legs, thighs, and buttocks  of the goat to reduce the amount of hair and dirt that will fall into the milking pail. 

    Milk That Goat!

    Here we are. I often like to tell people that when you’re working with goats they can be kind of stubborn, and so they’re going to try to get the best of you a couple of times. You can start by holding her leg with you left hand. At the beginning that might be what you have to do, but soon you’ll start to learn the timing and signs of when she’s about to try a kick. When you spot that coming, it’s time to really maintain the strength. When you have the goat steady, the trick to milking is to make a circle with your pointer finger and your thumb. And you use this to trap the milk in the teat. You close it firmly around the teat, and then with the last two or three of your fingers you press the teat against the palm of your hand. So, again, you trap the milk, press it out, you trap it, press it out, you trap it down there, you press it out. There’s almost like a little button right there, that you use with your pointer finger and you trap the milk, you press it out. When you get good, you can start to do it with two hands. When the udder is really full, it’s harder to get it to go straight because the udder is pretty tight, but as it empties out it just starts to go in. So when you get good you can do one hand and the other, and continue alternating like that. As you’re finishing up you’ll see that the udder is no longer as tight as it was at the beginning, and you can start to massage it. You really want to massage the udder from top to bottom. You actually feel there’s two bags, and on the inside you can feel it kind of wraps up, tightens up in there.  You want to massage those bags and drive the milk down into the teats, so you can do the same trick as before: trap the milk, squeeze it out, trap it, squeeze it out. And then massage it, massage it down. And you really want to strip it. This is actually the most important step. When we teach new people, apprentices and stuff, how to milk, the number one concern that I have is that they don’t take out all the milk. Every time you milk you must make sure to milk the goat completely. If you leave some milk, can lead to infection and to mastatis, and that’s really bad for the goat and for you if you want to have milk. When you massage the teat thoroughly and nothing is coming out that’s the sign that she’s done. 

    Clean-Up:

    OK, so now we have taken our milk, and what we’re going to do is to put it on the scale weigh it. I then make a note in our farm notebook, which says how much milk each goat is producing. Now that we’ve weighed it, we pass the milk through our cheesecloth lined strainer and right into our pot. 

    When the milk is all poured through, we cover it well to keep it protected from dust and flies, and our milk is good to go. To wrap it up, I will walk Virginia back to the goat house where she will relax until about 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. At that point all the goats go out for a two-hour walk, and on this walk they eat all kind of plants. That’s actually where the majority of their food comes from. After milking in the afternoon we give them some green material that we cut during the walk, and that holds them over till the morning when we start it all over again. 

    Finally, everything has to be rinsed and cleaned. I like to take the first rinsing of milk pail, which is the milk diluted into water and high in protein, minerals, and probiotic, and spread this evenly across the hen food, meat bird food, and the dog food so taht they all benefit from what would otherwise be waste. Once we’ve done the first rinsing I do a more thorough rinse, and then we bring boiling water and wash all four pieces of equipment that have touched the milk. So we strongly recommend a first rinse, a second rinse, both in cold water, and then a final scalding. THe last step: enjoy a cup of fresh milk. Cheers!

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    Atitlan Organics blog

    Studying Permaculture and Natural Building in Guatemala offers amazing opportunities to learn from indigenous cultures, rich natural patterns, and enormous diversity. Permaculture in Central America is representative of the edge effect or Edge Valuing Principle of Design. As one of the world’s centres of biodiversity, Central America attracts people from all over the world interested in learning through nature. Permaculture practices and can be seen in action via the surviving indigenous traditions that are common in Guatemala. Studying permaculture and natural building in Central America offers designers great opportunities to learn from diverse groups of people in incredibly diverse natural settings. 

    2 thoughts on “How to Milk a Goat . . . The RIGHT Way!”

    1. You should look into feeding your goats sesame seeds. They are to (organic) copper (content) what kelp is to iodine. It may be cheaper and more consistent than a 6 month burst approach.. quite probably healthier too.

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    Sarah Wu

    Sarah is a clinical herbalist of 20 years, studying and practicing planetary eclectic, regenerative herbalism with a foundation in Wise Woman Reclaiming philosophies. Influenced by global traditions, Sarah focuses on local food-based healing and ethnobotanical traditions. She leads trainings and workshops in herbal medicine, Permaculture Design Courses, Therapeutic Deep Ecology, Social Permaculture, field-to-the-plate holistic nutrition, herbal first aid and Tarot. She is a passionate mentor and educator, who believes in the teacher’s role in unlocking the innate wisdom of the student. Sarah is the co-founder of the Village Witches project, and is a Co-Founder and Co-producer of Envision Festival.

    Laura Palmieri

    Laura ‘Lala’ Palmieri is a clinical herbalist, a biologist, plant and fungi lover and grower. She offers health consultations to balance body, mind and soul working with medicinal herbs and mushrooms. Her approach to health integrates the knowledge of many ancient traditions and teachers, fusing spirituality with nature, and science with alchemy through the transformation of the elements.

    Lala has spent her years in dialogue with Nature, which has fueled her passion to integrate scientific knowledge and the connection with all beings to help humanity. She integrates her practice with cooking, gardening, and exploring ecosystems. She teaches and facilitates herbal clinics and programs in permaculture, herbalism, botany, fermentation, and medicinal mushroom cultivation, with a regenerative earth care approach and techniques that are accessible to most. She and Sarah co-created the Envision and Cosmic Converge Herbal First Aid Clinics, other relief Clinics in Guatemala for the volcano eruption. You will find Lala crafting remedies for her diverse communities in Guatemala and Costa Rica, where she is actively creating a world with integrated healthcare.

    Holly Mech

    Holly fell in love with yoga because of the sense of connection she felt every time she came to her mat. She began teaching yoga in Chicago in 2011. Her desire to deepen her teaching and personal practice led her to continue her yoga education in California, Bali, Australia and Guatemala. Holly now travels around the world teaching yoga and facilitating yoga teacher trainings. She enjoys helping new teachers sequence yoga classes and incorporate philosophy into their teachings. Her classes are creative and dynamic with an emphasis on making yoga accessible to everyone.

    Holly studied English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and frequently draws inspiration for her classes from literature and poetry. When she’s not on the yoga mat she enjoys exploring nature, singing, dancing and working with textiles.

    Ashley McDonnell

    Ashley’s work focuses on resurrecting our relationship to the natural world through the development of earth based skills that deepen our connection to place while increasing our sense of sovereignty and resilience. Devoted to the arts of permaculture, natural building, herbalism and birth work as her mediums, Ashley explores with humility the diverse modalities that support us in living in right relationship with the world around us. She views permaculture as a practice that not only creates healthy ecological communities but one that helps to reweave the very fabric of who we are as people. Her work is an offering to the future.

    Zach Loeks

    Hailing from Ottawa, Canada where he and his partner run the 50-acre Kula Permaculture Farm, Zach brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the course. He works as an educator, designer, consultant and farmer, with an emphasis on integrating diversity, conserving soil and maximizing farm ecosystem services while maintaining high productivity.

    Last year Zach published The Permaculture Market Garden, which explores ways that permaculture can be scaled up be a profitable whole-systems enterprise. Zach is a leading figure in permaculture, who brings a new and exciting vision of how it can be integrated into the wider community and marketplace.

    Rony Lec

    Rony is one of the world’s leading experts in permaculture and Mayan ancestral knowledge. Rony has spent the last 20 years teaching and implementing permaculture throughout Central, South and North America focusing on promoting food sovereignty and preserving biodiversity for the survival of Indigenous communities.

    Through his extensive work with Indigenous communities on traditional ecological knowledge, seed saving, native plants, local/global food movements, livelihood security, and the interaction between communities and the environment, he has made a key contribution to the empowerment of Indigenous people around the world. Rony is a co-founder of IMAP.

    Neal Hegarty

    Neal is originally from Ireland. He grew up on a dairy farm and has been around animals all his life. He studied agriculture in Ireland and has worked as a permaculturist for the past 10 years. Neal was the Volunteer Manager at Atitlan Organics for 2 years before co-founding his own Permaculture-based enterprise, Abundant Edge Farm, in Tzununa. He brings a wealth of experience, enthusiasm, and energy into each Intro to Permaculture Course and Permaculture Design Certification Course and we’re happy to continue to collaborate with him!

    Shad Qudsi

    Shad Qudsi has over 13 years experience in organic and commercial gardening and farming. He is certified in Permaculture Design and has over 3 years experience in permaculture design consulting. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a double major in Applied Math and Psychology, Shad and his wife, Colleen, moved to Central America with only vague goals of farming at some point in the near future. In January of 2010, Shad and his wife bought and moved onto a very small farm located in the traditional Mayan village of Tzununa, which on the north shore of Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala. The farm developed into Atitlan Organics and now mainly focuses on greens and chickens, a large edible and useful plant nursery, a food forest, and training and education.  Shad is an enthusiastic teacher who truly believes in the work he is doing. Human resiliency cannot be erased from the landscape and now, it is coming back with a loving grace.