The most important thing to remember at this phase of your goat milking career is that it will all work out. Things always do. You WILL triumph. You WILL drink fresh goat milk. You ARE more stubborn than that goat. But first, you must learn how to train a goat to a milk stand. You’ve got this. And we’re here to help with four essential items, training procedures and tips for troubleshooting.
If you’re just learning about dairy goats and have yet to make the commitment, you may want to read the Goat Vs. Cow section of our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. How do cows compare? Don’t have your own copy of the book? Click here to learn more. If you’d like a free sample of that section, feel free to email me at Tessa@homesteadlady.com and I’ll get you set up!
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! Compliant and obedient or not, all goats will need to be trained in order to milk well on a milk stand.
Items You’ll Need to Train a Goat to a Milk Stand
Item #1 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 figuring out how to build her milk stand – click here to read that. Fiasco Farms has a set of plans for you to use – Molly is so helpful for everything having to do with goats!
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.
Item #2 Collar with Leash
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 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. I’m too busy trying to train a goat to be milked!
Make sure the collars fit snugly, but not too tightly. Never constrict an animal’s airways! However, too loose and the goat will probably get the collar caught on some stray bit of fence and choke herself. Goats.
Make sure the leash attaches EASILY to the collar because you may have to attach it while the goat is in motion. As in, the goat is running away from you. Like I said, goats.
Always lead gently, but firmly when you train a goat. Should the goat refuse to move forward, go to the side of her and gently push her forward with a hand on her rump. If you know she won’t kick you, you can do this from behind. However, if this is her first time being milked, stay to the side, because she’ll be unpredictable.
Never pull in anger on her neck with the collar and leash when you train a goat. In fact, if you feel yourself getting angry, simply step out of the goat run. Most goats are charmingly and cleverly wicked and, even when they’re being butts, you can still laugh. Some are just pure evil and you’ll need an extra dose of patience until they’re trained.
Item #3 Hobbles
You’re going to need, and I mean need, a pair of hobbles to train a goat. 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 the vinyl ones pictured below 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 goat 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. When properly designed and used, hobbles do not hurt your goat.
#4 The Right Tude – Approaching Your 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, eating dried apple bits and covering her hand in drool. With said hand, Gracie started whacking this good father’s hand in a slobbery game of tag-you’re-it. The first few times he 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. However, 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 how to train a goat to a milk stand.
Goats are People, Too
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 the milking process 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 animal and yourself. And have some fun. Even if you get slobbered on.
Routines to Train A Goat to the 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! Ever since then, I make it a point to stay very near if my girl is up, locked in and hobbled. Do NOT wander as you train a goat because it’s just not safe.
Finesse, Not Force
Watch several videos on milking goats and practice the hand movements you see. A blown up balloon on which you’ve left a little tail can be helpful to simulate the milking motion. See how the milkers in the videos move their hands, from the top down? You’re natural inclination might be to do the opposite, but the milk comes down with that gentle movement.
You’ll feel a disappointing nothing when you do it wrong and a firm squirt down when you do it correctly. Milk let down is hormone-based, just like in humans. So, keep calm, exude confidence, keep trying, be gentle and you’ll get it. Don’t worry about aim at first. Arrange your stool so that you’re facing the teats, with your legs sideways or face on. Do whatever is comfortable. Be gentle and don’t PULL.
Don’t worry so much that you move too slowly, though. A goat is not a patient creature – it’s not in her nature.
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. 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. When that happened, I turned their babies loose on them to finish the milking process. 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.
The Spa Treatment
I find that when I’m newly training a first-time milk goat to the stand its helpful to have a second person there. That person can be on hand to run back to the house for anything you forgot, or to hold the back end of your skitterish goat 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!
Don’t forget to email me for that free sample from The Do It Yourself Homestead! I hope you’ll find the book to be helpful, but don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what respected author and lecturer Joel Salatin had to say about it:
Other Goat Information
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.
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.
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 this: