Welcome to the cool-kids milking club…
Yep. If you are reading this, you are no doubt, about to join the milking club by bringing a goat or cow onto your homestead, right?
Well, not to long ago I was right where you are. I was googling ‘how to milk’, ‘tips for milking’, ‘milking supplies’, ‘how to prepare for goats‘, etc. Sound familiar?
I knew it!
Well as a newer milker myself I wanted to give you the five best tips for milking for the first time.
So, without further ado…
Tip #1: Find a Quiet Place to Milk
I can’t stress this enough. If you are new to milking you need to find a quiet place for both you and your milk animal.
The first night we brought Silkie home, we decided to milk on the front porch since our milk stand was not quite built yet (you gotta do what ya gotta do!). And by ‘WE’ I mean: myself, Beau, and the three kids.
We all were excited and wanted to see where our raw milk was going to come from.
But, let me just tell you that having your 10, 4 and 2 year old watching, being kids, and not being able to stay quiet is rough. Not only for you, but for your animal as well.
I’m all about kids participating on the farm, but sometimes when you are new to an activity, you are new to your animal, or both, it needs to be a calm and quiet environment. Take it from me, I know from experience.
After a week we had the kids slowly come out and watch. We want the kids to be able to milk on their own sometime in the future and that requires teaching and practice, but there is plenty of time to do that sans the first week. 😉
Tip #2: Have All Your Supplies Ready and Within Your Reach
I know, this sounds like a no-brainer, but I have caught myself without my udder balm. Or enough paper towels. Or my ice pack. Or my…
I think you get the point. 😉
From the beginning you want to develop a mental (or paper) checklist of all of the supplies you need. Eventually, it will be part of your routine and you won’t need your checklist- well at least not a paper one.
I am one of those people that constantly makes mental to-do lists until my brain is literally turned to mush or I have overwhelmed myself, but such is life, at least mine anyway…
After you get all of your supplies to where you are milking make sure they are within your reach- but not so close that you knock over your milk pail (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).
Okay, I am.
But, just remember that if you are sitting on the milking stand to keep all of the items within your reach, but not so much within the reach of your feet if you or your milk animal decide to break out some flawless dance moves to avoid things like: having their feet in your milking pail, kicking (you or them), or simply just needed to change your position.
Tip #3: Find a Comfortable Position
This is for both you and your milk animal. I actually sit right on my milking stand. Why? It’s just a personal preference.
Some people sit next to the milking stand on a small stool or bench type thing. It is all about personal preference. Try all different types of positions and placements of where you will actually sit.
It will also become a personal preference as to which side of your animal you milk from: left, right, back.
I like milking from the back of my goat and from her left side. I switch from time to time to accommodate the weak little muscles in my hands. Don’t worry- they will be super strong after milking for a while, but for now I do what is best and most comfortable for me until I become the worlds-best milker.
It’s going to happen. I just feel it.
Tip #4: Bring Extras of Everything
Nothing like learning to milk and your animal puts her foot into your milking pail (or jar/cup). You will need another one to finish milking into.
Once you and your animal become familiar with each other you will learn how to move yourself so her foot doesn’t get in your milking container, but for now just bring an extra. You won’t regret it!
Bring on the extra grain, BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds), alfalfa pellets, whatever you decide to feed your milk animal while milking, bring extra for the first few days.
It is better to have more than not enough (ask me how I know). In the beginning ,while you are learning to milk, it will be a slow process for you, so bring that extra food to keep your animal “entertained.”
Tip #5: Be Patient, Breathe, and Give Yourself Enough Time
I ain’t gonna lie… patience is really not a virtue of mine although I greatly desire for it to be.
Milking an animal (especially for the first-time) requires you to be patient and breathe. Yes, I have to remind you to breathe because your very first time milking you will forget to.
If something isn’t working out just change your position, take a deep breathe, and try again. Realize that you won’t get it down on the first try and neither will your animal.
And you know what? That’s okay, my friend.
We gave the milk to our animals the first three days that we milked. This eliminated the pressure of having to milk perfectly by keeping her from kicking or keeping her feet out of the milking pail.
It allowed me to really get comfortable with Silkie, and for her to get comfortable with me, without having to worry about taking the extra cautions of making sure the milk is clean to feed to my family.
Give yourself enough time to get your system down-pat. It is a process- the entire thing…
From learning to sterilize your equipment, to the process of wiping down udders, milking, cleaning the udder, straining the milk, and sterilizing the equipment again after use.
It. Takes. Time.
Since it does take time give your animal some extra grain, BOSS, whatevs. This will give you enough time to get the most out of your first few sessions.
Also, realize that when your animal is done, she is done. You may not get all of her milk out until a few sessions of learning how to milk. And again, that is quite alright, baby! Don’t force her to try to finish milking the first few times. It will not go well. I promise.
And remember….to breathe! Yes- I have to tell you again.
It will get easier after a few days.
You got this, my friend.