Monday, July 26, 2010

milking a goat

We have the blessing of a great science and nature center at our school. Part of the nature center is a barn with animals. We were recently invited to be part of the goat co-op to help care for and milk Ginger, a Nubian/Alpine goat.

We were already helping with Daisy, a cute little pony. Daisy is very easy to care for, but the goat pen is another story.

This beautiful girl is Ginger. I have never been a goat fan. I raised sheep in high school and have always considered goats to be beneath me. Ginger has changed all of that.

Before we let Ginger out, we make our preparations. Princess puts some feed in the bowl and gets the udder wash ready.

Princess goes into the goat pen with Ginger and the kids.

To distract the kids while she lets Ginger out to be milked, Princess feeds the kids some feed.

Poor Ginger is so full of milk in the morning that she cannot walk. She walks with her front legs and hops in the back. She runs straight for the milking stall and...

hops right up onto the milking stand. She sticks her head through the gate and begins to eat.

Princess locks the gate to keep her head in place while she eats.

The udder wash is made from super warm water, lavender oil, baby oil and gentle soap. Some people add tea tree oil to the wash. Princess washes the udder, giving special attention to the teats. The warm water wash helps Ginger relax and enables her milk to come down.

Princess squirts the first 5 squirts of milk from each teat to clear out any impurities. This initial milk just goes on the ground. If there were a kitty around, we would give the kitty the first 5 squirts. :)

Then Princess begins to milk. Notice how she squeezes with her index finger and thumb to create a block at the top of the teat. This creates a bulb of milk in the teat. She then squeezes with her tall man finger, then ring finger, then pinky finger. Release and repeat. She also raises her hand up as she is milking so has to not pull on the udder. It is handy to milk into a tall container with a handle so if Ginger kicks, Princess can quickly pull the milking container out of the way of the hoof. The kicking is minimal and is mainly a high step up and a stomp down. No big deal.

After she finishes milking both sides, she sprays a liquid on the teats to seal them in order to prevent bacteria from entering the udder. This spray is cold and after the warm lavender bath and Princess' warm hands, Ginger is less than thrilled with the temperature of the spray.

After milking and while Ginger is still eating, Princess brushes her and loves on her.

There's a bit of affection to go around.

From goat to milking girl. From milking girl to goat.

After turning Ginger out in the pasture, it is time to clean up with water and bleach.

After cleaning the milking stall, it is time to clean the goat pen. This is one night's activity from one Ginger and three kids. They are quite messy.

The finished goat stall. Much better. Clean goats make good milk.

After cleaning at the barn, we go home to put our milk away. We take a double stainless steel container to the barn. The outside container has ice water to create an ice bath for the milk. As soon as Princess milks into the pitcher at the milking stand, she pours the milk into the inner container in the ice bath. This immediately chills the milk. Goat milk needs to be chilled to 38 degrees fahrenheit as quickly as possible after collection. By pouring the milk immediately into a stainless steel container in an ice bath, I reduce bacteria and wind up with sweet, rich milk with no goat taste.
Next, we filter the milk to remove any impurities like hair, dander, etc.

Then, we fill our jars and bottles. The plastic bottles are handy for a rich protein snack on the go. Add a bit of protein powder and you can have lunch or a hearty snack. I also hear that Ginger's milk makes excellent ice cream. Can't wait to find out...

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