How to Train a Goat to a Milk Stand

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How to train a goat to a milkstand - www.homesteadlady.com“Without killing her” should be the last part of the tagline for this article.  Aaaaaahhhhhh!  Ok, so not all goats are butts, however a large number of them rank somewhere on the severe butt spectrum.  There’s a reason why the Lord said that goats were on his left hand!  Sorry, I haven’t had time for Yoga since I started milking the goats again and it’s beginning to take it’s toll.   In my calmest voice, Come friend as we explore how to train a goat to a milk stand.

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My kingdom for a milk stand!

The first thing you’re going to need in order to train a goat to be milked on a milk stand is…a milk stand.  I know there are hard core South American kids who blithely milk free standing goats – I’ve seen the pictures in National Geographic.  Yeah, that don’t happen in my barnyard.  I use a milk stand with two locks on it to secure their ever squirming heads.  Farming My Backyard has a post about building her milkstand and there are places online that will send you a set of plans.  Ours has a dish at head level in order for the goats to eat while I milk them.  Some goat owners choose not to feed their goats while they milk because they want them to learn to hold still without treats.  Yeah, that don’t happen in my barnyard, either. 

I use the goats’ milking time to administer their herbal wormer, special herbal supplements for each goat and treats like rose hips and black oiled sunflower seeds.  If your herd is over two goats, feeding time can disintegrate into a flurry of butting heads and games of killer tag as the goats fight each other over their feed.  Which is why some people choose not to grain their goats at all.  Someday.

How to train a goat to a milkstand - www.homesteadlady.com - The milkstand

The next thing you’ll need to be able to train a goat to be milked on a milk stand is a collar and leash.  Sounds basic but I’ve gone over six months now without collars for all but one of my baby goats and, holey moley, there’s just no controlling them!  (Why don’t I have collars, you ask?  Because I just don’t have time to go to the feed store and buy them, that’s why.  Fur reelz.)

Then you’re going to need, and I mean need, a pair of hobbles.  Some goat owners train their goats with their minds, using only their powers of psychic persuasion and their gentle voices to get the goats to do as they’re asked.  Yeah, that don’t happen in my barnyard, either.  There are lots of different designs but I like these vinyl ones with Velcro  closures.  You should only need these for a few weeks to a few months, depending on the stubbornness level of the individual goat.  I had one that I hobbled every single time for as long as I owned her because she kicked the bucket without fail if I didn’t.  Don’t try to make your goat be something she’s not – respect her nature as you ask her to respect yours.  If she’s a kicker or a dork, hobble her as long as it takes.

How to train a goat to a milk stand - www.homesteadlady.com - how to use the hobbles

How to approach your new milk goat

We have some new families in our congregation at church and recently we sat behind one – the dad, to be specific.  My one year old was standing behind his chair alternately eating dried apple bits (covering her hand in drool) and whacking this good brother’s hand in a slobbery game of tag-you’re-it.  The first few times this loving dad was busy with his own three little ones and didn’t seem to notice but my baby is persistent and kept whacking and laughing until she caught his attention.  He gave her a big smile, which she returned, but instead of moving his hand away as I expected he might, he started reaching his fingers out to grab her little hand each time she popped him. 

Gracie thought this was the best game ever and kept it up; each time she touched his hand, he gently grabbed for hers until she let him hold her hand.  Once he had to wipe the considerable drool from his hand and turned back to give us all a smile.  I smiled back and thanked him for being so sweet to my baby, at which point he returned his hand to Grace and left it there until she toddled off to eat the hymn book.

That, in essence, is training a goat to a milk stand.  Your goats have their own personalities and natures – some are playful and others are reserved.  Some goats just want to have fun and others want to be in charge.  Figure out what kind of goat you have and be patient while you establish relationships of trust with each other.  Think about what milking is – you’re going to be touching what is, especially for first time moms, a very sensitive and newly functioning area.  Your goat is still figuring out what all this milk/nursing/being milked experience is!  At least you’re in this together, so be patient with both your goat and yourself.  And have some fun.

Routines to help train your goat to a milk stand

I usually milk at feeding times so I made sure to have a milking stand that included an attached bowl for my girls to eat out of while I milk them, as I mentioned before.  I have one goat who figured out how to toss that bowl off when she thought I should give her more treats, even though she still had a bowl full of rose hips and sunflower seeds, and so I also had my husband figure out a way to lock the bowl and the neck brace in place.  Goats are very strong and it’s important that they be as secured as possible for their safety as well as yours. 

I once had a goat (that same bowl tossing one) buck and wiggle so badly that she catapulted off her stand and fell with it twisted around her neck, still in her hobbles.  Can you tell that I’d just gotten up to get something when all this happened?  I was so surprised she didn’t break her neck that ever since then I make it a point to stay very near if my girl is up, locked in and hobbled.  I do NOT wander because its just not safe.

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For new moms learning how to be milked there’s no one right way to go about their training.  Its mostly a matter of their temperament and yours.  I’ve had goats that take right to it and others that were so upset and bucky (or worse, so annoyed they just sat stubbornly down) that the first few times I only milked a little and turned their babies loose on them to finish.  The key is persistence and patience and establishing those aforementioned relationships of trust. 

Don’t chase your goat dears down with a stick and a shout and expect them to forgive you quickly.  In my experience, goats have very vivid and very long memories.  Be kind and stay aware of the temperature of your goat’s mood; don’t be afraid to call the training a session a draw if your dam just needs a rest from you and the weird things you want to do to her.  I always dam raise my kids and so I have them on hand if my mama goat is still packing quite a bit of milk from a less than stellar training session on the milk stand.  If you don’t have kids to relieve your mama goat of her milk supply, you’ll have to do it – no options.  In that case, suck it up, repent and just get in there and get ‘er done.

How to train a goat to a milkstand - where to sit - www.homesteadlady.com

I find that when I’m newly training a first time milk goat to the stand its helpful to have a second person there, milling around just in case you need them to assist with running back to the house for anything you forgot or holding the back end of your skitterish goat still while you milk her. 

In the first stages of their milk stand training, I also like to brush the goats thoroughly so they have a comforting experience.  Word to the wise, pet a goat’s ears only if you have a good relationship established with that goat.  Goats are choosey about who messes with their ears and if they let you get in a pet or two, you can know that you’re loved.

So, there you go!  Anyone else have advice on training a goat to a milk stand?  Please share!

The virtues of goats as a dairy animal, especially as how they compare to cows, are given one whole section in our upcoming book.  Care to know more?

If you need to do a bit more research on this whole goat dairy idea, you can visit this link for Goat 101 by The Prairie Homestead; Better Hens and Gardens and Eight Acres also have good basic dairy goat information. 

For more information on quality dairy goat breeds you can visit this link from The Free Range Life. 

For more info on what you need to have in your milk barn/shed, you can visit this link from Green Eggs and Goats and Farming My Backyard

Green Eggs and Goats also has a tour of her milk room and a great recipe for homemade teat spray.  I hand milk my goats but if you’re using a machine, here’s a little more info on that from Better Hens and Gardens.

To get you started on your goat adventures, you may need these fine products:

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* This post was shared at The Homestead Barn Hop, The Backyard Farming Connection, Down Home Blog Hop, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Old Fashioned Friday, Simple Saturday, Natural Living Monday, Mountain Woman Rendevouz

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26 thoughts on “How to Train a Goat to a Milk Stand

  1. We’ve a momma and her triplet girls. Sinnce we’ve had them we’ve been training them to milk….even though they’re not even close to a pregnancy. Basically what we’ve done is we wanted to develop a good relationship with them….so they each eat out of a bowl we’re feeding them. We stick our hands in their food and all over their treats. I want our smell to be yay! Food! Cuddles! She’s touching my teats and that’s ok! While we feed them from a bowl we’re rubbing on their bellies and sides. We’ve worked our way around to quick feels/brushes to now we’re rubbing them and just putting our hands/fingers closed around their little teats. Not squeezing but wrapping/applying some pressure like when you pick up a pen/pencil. They’re not ready for a pregnancy yet but they’re learning that touching their teats is ok. We’re now working on getting them to let us put both hands on their teats without food. We’re spacing and making treats go longer between when they get them. We’re up to a whole minute i believe before they want another slice of carrot or bite of apple.

    I love your pic too! πŸ™‚
    ~Honey

    1. Thank you for sharing that, Heidi – wonderful! Sounds like your goats are your friends as well as your co-workers!

  2. We have one that I thought I would never successfully milk. She kicked, so I hobbled her. She laid down, I put a milk crate under her. She sat on the crate, so I finally rigged up a hoist system to the rafter, with a strap under her belly to keep her from being able to sit down. I would always try without anything first, then hobble/hoist depending on how she acted. That started in January. Now, in March, she will patiently stand there as long as she has feed in her bowl. Persistence is the key, I think.

    1. So. True. Good for you, Traci, for not giving up and giving her to someone else. What’s her milk like? Was it worth the hassle? I had one who laid down, too – a milk crate is genius!!! Do you have a picture of her in the hoist? I’d love to share it with our readers – too funny!

    1. Goats are cool – you won’t be sorry! They’re not all butts, either – well, some are, let’s be honest. However, they’re so much smaller than cows and they have great personalities!

  3. I used to have such issues with our first goat…it took me like 3 months to train her!
    Thanks for linking up on From the Farm! I chose this as my favorite this week! Come on by and grab your badge πŸ˜‰

  4. Oh. My. When I started milking for the first time last Spring I felt such heated anger rising in me! I’ve never been so mad and frustrated at anyone or anything. I appreciate your encouraging words. Patience and grace do bring success as well as a great partnership between you and these wonderful (stubborn) animals. Now we are training another and the lessons learned from our previous (as well as young kids on hand to finish her) are helping. Patience. Patience. Patience!

    1. So true! After you’ve trained your first, there’s so much more patience and experience from which to draw on. Good for you for sticking with it! I’ve never met a more stubborn animal than my mazie – she can make me so mad!!! But I love her for how she runs the herd and takes care of orphans and produces the most wonderful milk. Grace is a good word for happens.

  5. Thanks for this! Great tips and info…the best being time. We are new to goats and milking a Nigerian Dwarf who is too small for the traditional goat hobble so we had to fashion one out of an old dog leash. If you want a giggle, you can check out our earliest endeavors (when the goat arrived 6 days before the milk stand) here: http://www.paredownlookup.com/2014/06/goat-yoga.html
    We were not as adept as the South American kids…

  6. I am a new goat owner and have recently adopted a mommy and her two babies. The kids have now started eating and we have decided we could keep them apart overnight and milk mom. The first two days were alright and we got a small amount of milk ( around a cup each day) but this morning she REFUSED to get on the stand. No amount of coaxing or bribery would get her up there. Any tips or advice? Please.

    1. That can be so hard – I feel for you!
      If she doesn’t want to be milked at all, its possible she’s not feeling well. Is her bag hard, hot or smelly? Does she buck when you touch it or cry out? If so, she may have an infection in her duct or bag.
      If she just doesn’t want to get on the stand, she could be being ornery. Do you milk by yourself? If you can get someone to help you, physically hoist her onto the stand and secure her head in place. Then have someone stand to the side of her booty where they can hold her in place if they need to; if she kicks, hobble her immediately. If she sits down, haul her back up – you can even place a bucket under her ribs so that she can’t get all the way down.
      Goats can be super big pills! She may just not want to leave her baby or she may not like you touching her. Or the wind could be blowing out of the west or some other random thing. It will pass as she gets used to it all. If she’s a first time mom, this may be particularly hard for her to wrap her brain around.
      If you’re a praying person, make sure you pray before every milking session, pausing to give thanks afterwards – even if you had a horrible time of it!
      If you think she might be ill, contact a large animal vet in your area. The website http://www.fiascofarms.com should be very helpful to you, too. Let me know how it goes tomorrow morning, if you get a chance. I’ll keep you in my thoughts!

  7. I love the fact that you included a yoga video with your other Amazon suggestions! LOL We just got our first two goats and aren’t milking yet. I’m at the same time looking forward to it and terrified! Thanks for the advice!

  8. Great advice. I’m new at this goat milking thing. Got two Nubians both with kids. Been milking for almost a month now. They kick & lay down. Takes 2 to 3 people to help milk. Some days they are better than others. Deftly stubborn! I love them they are a gift from God. I’m going to order some of the hobbles. See if those help πŸ™‚

    1. I’m sorry – I know how frustrating this can be but you CAN do it! You have the right attitude and you love them; that’s more than half the battle. Have you tried a bucket wedged under them while milking to prevent them from laying down? Sometimes that helps. The hobbles should help with the kicking. Keep at it because eventually they’ll get used to it and so will you. Your hands will get stronger, they’ll learn to trust you more, you’ll be able to read them better and they may even learn to enjoy it!

  9. With over thirty goats,, none who were ” trained” when we got them I am HORRIFIED you would recommend hobbles. Sooooo absolutely cruel and not need! Shame shame shame! Patience, a gentle touch, good feed in the bunk are ALL that’s needed EVER.

    1. Take a deep breath, Tee. The world is full of people who are different from you and yet still good people. I use a soft hobble, never metal, and there is nothing cruel in their employ. There is no shame in it at all as I always use patience and a gentle touch and love my animals dearly. How nice for you that you’ve never had an animal buck on the stand and threaten not only your safety but their own as well, but we’ve had several goats who’ve required such training. If I were a goat whisperer like you perhaps I wouldn’t need hobbles every now and then but, alas, I’m not and they’re an effective tool when used properly. Thank you for sharing your opinion but I encourage you to try a touch of civility next time, should you choose to comment again.

  10. I have a question re hobbling. We have one goat (not milked, a neutered miniature male) and he is jumping the fence. Would the described hobble be suitable for keeping him on his own side of the fence?

    1. Ah, I’m so sorry you have a jumper! No, hobbles are for milking only because the animal can’t walk in them. The only thing I know of to do with a jumper is to sell them. Honestly, he’ll just keep jumping and, if you have other goats, he’ll teach them bad tricks. You can try a taller fence, certainly. You can also try an electric fence to which he can be trained. If those don’t work, you’ll most likely find that selling him is easier than the headache of trying to keep a male goat from going where he’s convinced he needs to go. If he’s not bothering anyone, since he’s neutered, can you just let him mingle. Goats are social animals and it’s possible he’s bored?

      Does any of that help?

  11. I just got a pasture raised 3 year old doe and her buck kid to milk her I have the stand over her hold a jar in one hand and milk was the the other she stayed calm that way but eventually I need to get her on the milk stand but one step at a time right ?

    1. Absolutely! The most important thing is that she trusts you and it sounds like you’re doing well. If there’s a way to attach a feed dish to your stand, she may be more willing to stand where you want her to.

      How many times a day are you milking?

  12. I love your blog and your book has just been such a wealth of information and inspiration. Thank you!

    I am reading this as I am
    Mentally preparing to head out to milk my girls. Arya is easy, though slow to milk. She has tiny orifices in her teats and it takes the time it takes. We don’t get a ton of milk from her, about a quart each milking but she is a small Nubian. Caitlin is a nightmare! She has a great udder! Her quality and quantity of milk is fabulous. Once we get started her milk just pours out into my jars…. A quart and a half each milking… She is arya’s daughter so a smaller Nubian but her papa is a big buck from great milking lines, and this is her first time on the stanchion.

    Caitlin doesn’t just hop and dance and kick. She bucks. I tried hobbles and she just sat down. When I milk her, I literally have to straddle her and reach down between her back legs to get the job done. It’s quite the picture! She eats her grain so fast that I can’t get halfway through the milking before she runs out and if she does, oh man! It’s a real rodeo then. Usually my husband is there and can keep the grain bucket full but when he travels I am on my own… I can’t reach the grain bucket when perched atop my bucking bronco of a goat. In a couple weeks I am going to be the one traveling and hubby is going to have to figure this out and keep his temper in check…. I bet dollars to doughnuts he will come up with some innovation to make the job easier then :).

    Anyway, here I go. It will start with a prayer for patience from me and from the goats!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Danielle – that made my day!

      I’m so sorry you’ve got a bucking milker – what a pain! How long have you been milking her? Often, after a bit of time, those unruly goats do settle down but until they do, you really do have to brace yourself before you begin the ordeal. Here’s to hoping your husband figures something clever out in his hour of need. As Heather Jackson of Green Eggs and Goats says, “Be more stubborn than the goat!” If she keeps laying down in the hobbles, a bucket is usually effective placed under her ribs. It can be hard to keep it there if she’s jumping and that’s where another person comes in handy.

      Be sure to let me know how it goes – maybe we can come up with something else altogether, if we end up needing to…

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