In Which I Milk Some Goats

When it comes to local foods, I consider myself an opportunistic. If an opportunity presents itself to provide me with food, I devote the time to take it. In Healdsburg, I worked at a local farm stand on weekends in exchange for produce. In Petaluma, I established relationships with neighbors that let me pick extra fruit and veggies from their yards. I’m no stranger to knocking on people’s doors asking if I can collect their fallen fruit. If someone has a free box with something fruit in it, or if someone is giving away a share of their glut, I am all over it.

Most recently, I took the opportunity to get fresh, raw goat milk by taking care of two goats for the weekend while their owner was out of town. Plus, I really, really want to have my own milk goats, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to learn how to milk!

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The two goats in my charge were LaManchas, which are medium size and known to be quite and have a gentle temperament. They also don’t have external ears, giving them a funny look. Goats are pack animals, and need companionship, so more than one should always be kept. Lola, the brown goat, is the alpha goat. She is pushy and bossy and must be milked before the black goat, Jane.

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The goats know when its time to be milked, and whether its from habit or the desire to be milked, when the door is opened into the milking area, they walk onto the milking stand. First Lola, and then after, Jane. The first step is to clean the udder and the teats with a soapy towel, and then dry off. These goats are first milked by hand. To get the milk out, you grab a teat at the top, and using your hand, crimp between your thumb and pointer finger. This creates a balloon of milk within the teat below. Using your other fingers, apply pressure to the teat in a constant pulsing motion. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but once I got the technique down, was quite easy. Compared to Lola, Jane has very small teats, which I found easier to milk.

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After a few streams milked by hand, these ladies where then milked by a hand-pumped milking machine. A syringe like tube was slipped on to each teat, and the machine created suction which urged the milk down from the udder into a bucket. Once the milk flow stops, the tube is pulled from the syringe to release suction, and slipped off. The goats are then finished being milking by hand.

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After my Saturday & Sunday morning milkings, I had little over  a gallon and a half of milk! Stored in my fridge and kept raw, it is awaiting to become cheese!

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