Once the scariness of a first-time mama goats kidding is past, and she’s all cozied up with her new kids, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. It’s one of the sweet spots of this homesteading venture. Then, it’s time to turn your attention and energy to the whole point of this undertaking. MILK. Whether your first or thousandth time training a goat to the milk stand, a new nannie-goat is bound to be an adventure. So let’s get started! Let’s learn how to train your new goat to the milk stand without losing your mind…or your milk!
A Very Good Place to Start
Let’s start at the very beginning. The first function of milk is to make sure those babies have nursed within the first 30 minutes. If, for whatever reason, they do not, you will need to milk some out and spoon feed that baby. This is typically not necessary but does bring up another important issue. I like to milk some of that colostrum rich milk and keep it in the freezer. You never know when you may need it for a kid now, or in the future. A goat in the throes of labor may not be willing to allow you to milk her now. It is reassuring to have a stash of that colostrum rich milk for a time such as this.
Once babies have all gotten their first feeding and are nursing well, I leave everyone alone and just watch for the next few days. This is a very personal decision and it’s likely that every goat owner you talk to will have a different opinion or way of doing things. I know plenty of farmers who separate babies from mamas almost immediately, or in 1 day, or 2, or…on and on with the differences. This is only MY way of doing things.
I have had 4 natural births. I KNOW how much work it is to carry and then birth those babies, and how wonderful it is to finally meet them. Now, I know goats are not humans and don’t have the same emotions we have and yada yada ya. I don’t care. There’s no way I’m taking those babies after all that work. We work together, share, and there is milk for all. At least for a few weeks.
I leave babies with mama for 2 weeks. At that point, as long as everyone is growing well, I start separating babies from mamas at night. Everyone is in the same barn, in rooms right next door, with cattle panel walls so the babies can see, hear, and smell mama. They are usually eating some hay by now so I give them a bit of timothy hay to get them through the night with full tummies. They adjust to this routine quickly and I think the mamas enjoy having a break.
This leaves plenty of milk for me when I come with the milking pail in the morning. In my morning milking I milk her as dry as possible, bumping to be sure I get all the milk I can out. Babies get breakfast with the mama’s so they aren’t starving while waiting for there to be milk to drink again. Okay, okay, let’s move on to the actual deed.
The Milk Stand Awaits
I always try to start acclimating my does to the stand from the very beginning. If I have her from a kid everything “good” happens on the stand. Yummy treats while I check hooves, brush her down, and basically get her used to me touching her and working with her ON the stand. She makes a lot of positive associations that the milk stand is good and it’s good to be her on the stand!
At two weeks most babies have gained a considerable amount of weight and started eating timothy hay. I now feel confident enough that I can separate moms from babies overnight without too much trauma. The kids get a big handful of timothy hay to tide them over until morning and the mamas get a break. I truly do think they appreciate it; those babies are relentless!
In the morning, I set everything up BEFORE I go to grab my doe. Hay is set in the feeder, grain is in the bucket, hobbles are set out and ready, etc. Time to get mama! I lead her by the collar to the stand and, because she’s well adjust to the stand from all our previous work, she jumps right up. I lock her head in and hobble her feet. Speaking of hobbles, if you aren’t using them you definitely need to reevaluate your life decisions. Keep her from dancing all over the darn place with this simple and painless method. You can thank me later.
In case you are still a little uncertain about the whole milking situation, just remember all the amazing benefits of raw goats milk and get out there!
Tips and Tricks for Training a New Goat to the Milk Stand
I would love to say that it was all milky and happily ever after. However, that’s not always the case, especially with a first-time freshener (that just means the first time she has been in milk). Training your new goat to a milk stand is not a one-time set it and forget it type thing! Next time she kids she will be a second-year freshener, and a much easier go. Here are a few quick start tips to train your new goat to the milk stand and get the best possible experience for both of you…and to keep every drop of that liquid gold.
- Make sure you have enough grain in the grain bucket! When they run out, or get low, things can get a little cray cray.
- Hobbles! We covered this already, but just in case you weren’t convinced, even my sweet old nanny goat gets the hobbles. Everyone is happier when boundaries are in place, ya know?
- Have a feed bucket nearby to slide under her chest if/when she starts to feel rebellious and wants to lay down. This is one of the first things my first timers do. I don’t think so, milking is not done until I say so. Never let them win, it just makes tomorrow’s fight that much more difficult. Goats are very stubborn creatures; you have to be more stubborn.
- Make certain her head is locked securely in place, but not so tight that she can’t move her neck up and down. You definitely do not want a goat “hobbling” (ha…see what I did there, eh? eh?) around with her back legs tied together.
- Once everything is in place, make sure you get in there and get her milked as quickly as possible. I usually start them off with just one side at a time since doing both sides simultaneously tends to make them a little jumpy.
- While she is on the stand, make sure to talk softly and sweetly to her. You want her to know the stand is a happy place.
- Once you’re done milking, use some bag balm to rub on the lower part of her udder and upper part of her teets. This helps with dryness and keeps them feeling soft.
Thats it! It generally only takes a few weeks for her to settle into the routine and look forward to her goodies on the milk stand. Within a month or so, she should be standing well for you the majority of the time. Good job! You have successfully trained your new doe to stand for milking, and will enjoy many years of abundant milk as your reward.
Have you ever trained a first-time freshener to stand for milking? Did I miss any helpful tips and tricks? Let us know your secrets to a successful milking below!
Are you swimming in fresh milk and need some ideas of how to use it? Here are a few of my favorite recipes to use up goats milk in a hurry;