Here’s a little peek into GiGi’s morning milking routine. Apologies in advance for the for the horrible pictures… the barn is dark and everyone’s moving. I’m going to have to convince the barn animals to start living in a photo studio and train them to stand still on command 😉
When the animals get fed and put up for the night, we separate the goat kids from their mamas so they don’t nurse throughout the night. Come morning, all the does are full of milk and happily jump up an the stanchion to get some relief. Poppy is up on the milking stanchion right now. She steps onto the platform and puts her head through the open bars at the front because GiGi has put a nice helping of sweet feed in the tray. When her head is through, GiGi slides the bars together so that Poppy can’t pull her head out and drops the block on top to keep them in place. This is also a good time to trim one of the doe’s hooves or check her over for any injuries or illnesses while she’s standing (relatively) still. GiGi starts out by testing the milk from each teat to make sure no mastitis or other ailments are present. Then, it’s time to get out the bucket!
The bucket sits under the teats and GiGi switches from one teat to the other to pull an even amount of milk from each one. The main strategy here is to get the doe milked as quickly as possible before she gets bored and starts prancing around. Trust me, it’s beyond frustrating to have a full bucket of milk when your doe decides she’s finished and puts her foot in it. It’s no fun doing all that work and then having to feed it straight to the pigs :/ Some people hobble their goats (i.e. tie their back legs together) so they can’t do that but we want our does to be as comfortable as possible on the stand so they’ll be willing to get up there without a struggle each time. So GiGi works as fast as possible. She leaves a serving or so for the babies to eat after she’s done but once they’re weaned, she’ll take pretty much all of it. When one doe is finished, GiGi guides her off the stand and send her out to the pasture to be with her kid(s) and the rest of the herd and gets the next doe out of the stall and up onto the stand.
Once all the milk is collected, GiGi heads straight to the kitchen with her bucket to get the milk cooled down as fast as possible. Since we want all the health benefits of unpasteurized milk, it is essential to cool it as fast as possible to prevent bacteria growth. But first we need to filter our creamy goodness. In case you didn’t know, goat teats are hairy 🙂 Some people shave their girls so they can just put their milk straight in the fridge but- again- we want the milking experience to be as comfortable as possible for our ladies so we just run our milk through a dairy filter in case a stray hair makes it in. It’s less traumatic for all of us that way 🙂
Now that we’re filtered and ready to go, it’s time to get cool. The milk sits in an ice bath that cools it down to refrigerator temperatures in a few minutes and then it’s ready to go straight in the fridge. We label the lids to make sure we always use the oldest milk first and now it’s ready to pour on our cereal, ferment into yogurt, or make into some delicious cheese!