How to Train a Goat to a Milk Stand

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How to train a goat to a milk stand l Milking tips and training how-tos l Homestead Lady (.com)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.

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

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.

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

#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

Feeding

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.

Stay Put

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.

Don’t Quit

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.

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

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!

Free Sample

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.

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.

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 this:

Just sayin’.


DisclaimerInformation offered on the Homestead Lady website is for educational purposes only. Read my full disclaimer HERE.

 

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28 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! 🙂
    ~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 😉

  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: https://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 🙂

    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…

  13. Hi! Thanks for this helpful info! I have an Alpine first time mother goat with two kids that were born last week and are nursing. When they get a little older, I’ll separate them from the mom at night. For now, I’m trying to milk her a little each day just to get us in the routine. She is very smart and likes human attention (and food), so she comes out of the pasture, jumps right up on the milkstand, and then goes right back to the pasture with her kids when she’s done. I think she’ll be a good milker because she doesn’t kick too much and seems to have a lot of milk.

    I have two questions. Her teats are small, and I’m finding it hard to milk her. I’ve milked older goats with bigger teats and found it much easier. With this goat the milk sprays all over so I’ve resorted to holding the bucket close to the teat and milking one-handed. Question #1: Will this get better with time and experience? Question #2: Should I be worried about how much grain I put in her bowl? (She is so still and good when she has grain but wants to get off that stand as soon as the grain runs out.)

    1. Great questions, Virginia! Congrats on baby goats and milk!

      #1 – Her teats will expand and open with time (it happens to the best of us, right?), and so it’s possible that what you’re experiencing now will improve. Keep mental notes on any changes/improvements as she progresses this year. By her second freshening, everything might change.

      #2 – You’ll need to reach your own conclusions on grain consumption, of course, but I normally monitor grain amounts and try to keep them minimal. A lactating animal does need more nourishment, but if you’re feeling like she’s getting too much, look around for other things you can give her to keep her still. Beet leaves, herbs, clover or any leafy leftover from your kitchen. You can also give her a few black oiled sunflower seeds and/or rose hips (both items we include in the supplement we give the goats daily). Don’t let her boss you around, though. It’s ok for her to learn to hold still for a few minutes while you finish – that will come over time if you’re consistent. It’s hard with your first lactating animal to remember that you’re the one in charge because you’re so worried about doing something wrong. BUT, you’re her mama – you tell her where to stand and for how long. Maybe try to think of it as rewarding good behavior instead of bribing her out of bad behavior. The difference being that you expect a good performance before she gets any further reward. Give it time – you’ve got this!!

      Let us know how it’s going in a few months…

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