Goat 101: Improvising Milking Equipment

So you bite the bullet and now are the proud owner of a couple dairy goats. Where do you go now? How do you safely get milk from the udder to the refrigerator while keeping it tasting fresh?

To be honest, when we started our milking journey, I was pretty nervous about this part. I wanted to make sure I did everything absolutely by the book and didn’t mess up. Unfortunately, there are a lot of different “books” out there and it can become incredibly confusing, not to mention expensive. I found plenty of shiny stainless steel milk buckets and filters online, but I just couldn’t make myself shell out the cash for them.
So after lots of asking around and research, these are the supplies that I currently use. While they might not work for everyone, I am pleased with my little “dairy system” and how it works for us.

Buckets: This is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your home dairy. Milking into plastic can produce “off” tasting milk and it is more difficult to sanitize. Commercial dairies use stainless steel since it does not have any pores for bacteria or dirt to hid in and can easily be sterilized. I found 2 stainless steel containers in the kitchen section of my local Target. They were inexpensive ($8-$10) and are easy to wash. The biggest drawback to them is their size. They only hold a couple quarts each, but they work for now since we are only milking one goat once per day and her kids drink the rest. The one on the left did not come with a lid, so I simply cover in with a dish towel fastened with clothespins when it is full and promptly take it into the house.

Strip Cup: Before you begin milking into your stainless steel pail, the first couple squirts from each teat should go into a strip cup. This serves two purposes:
First, you can check the milk for any abnormalities such as blood specks or clumps which might indicate mastitis or other problems. I chose a black cup so I could more easily see any problems with my milk.
Second, you are doing a quick clean out of the teat as the first few squirts carry the most bacteria and dirt.
I found this little cup (they called it a “dip cup”) at Target for 99 cents.
Filter System: Filtering is important to remove any stray hair or debris that may have fallen in your milk. I have found that a canning funnel and reusable coffee filter basket work great for this! Your other alternative is buying an actual milk strainer, but they require disposable paper filters… I really try to avoid disposable products- they increase the cost of home milking and can be hard to find. This reusable coffee basket was $5 at my local Walmart. It’s easy to wash and fits perfectly into the canning funnel!
**Check out my updated filtering system– it works much better, especially for larger quantities of milk!**
Storage Containers: One word: glass! Please don’t store your milk in plastic– it will produce funny tastes and really isn’t sanitary. I love using canning jars when I’m getting smaller quantities of milk. You can also save and wash old jelly, pickle, or tomato sauce jars for this purpose. Get creative! I found several old 2 quart Ball jars at a yard sale and they worked wonderfully for storing milk this summer. My favorite trick is to use the screw-on plastic lids. I then use a dry-erase marker to date each jar of milk. This makes fridge organization a breeze!
**Visit this post to see what I use for my larger quantities of milk, now that we have a cow. 😉 **

Udder Wash: I tried several different methods for cleaning my goat’s udder before milking and found that simple works best for me. There are many wash recipes online, but they often call for bleach. I really don’t like the thought of having bleach on my goats or in my milk. I also know that many people use baby wipes, but again, I steer away from disposable products. So instead, I repurposed an old coffee container with lid. I cut some squares from an old shirt and then dampened the “wipes” with a mixture of water and a couple drops of dish soap.

And that is what works for me! There are many schools of thought on home dairying, but for our needs, this system has been effective, inexpensive, and simple. What is in your collection of milking supplies? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

There is lots of info in the Goat 101 Series! A few posts to get you started-

Disclaimer: I am not a professional. This is simply what works for my family. Please use common sense and discretion when working with raw dairy products.

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  1. Dem says

    Just came across your blog today from Finer Things Friday. Sounds like we have alot in common! I actually had a dream a couple nights ago that I bought a goat for milking. I have the same concerns as you do regarding a milk cow. We have one cow that's part Brown Swiss, so next spring when she calves I'm going to try milking her. Do you bring your daughter with you to milk the goat? What do you do with the goat in the winter? Can you skip some milkings since she has her kid with her?

  2. Jill says

    Dem- glad you are considering goats! What fun to have a cow though, as well!
    Yes, my daughter has spent a large portion of her 7 months on earth in the goat barn! In fact, our goats kidded when she was one week old, so she's spent plenty of time all bundled up in blankets hanging out in the barn. She didn't seem to mind a bit.

    Right now, winter is quickly approaching in Wyoming. I am still milking one goat (dried up the other about a month ago). I plan to milk her through Christmas and then dry her up as she will be due to kid in March. I like to give her body a break as constant milking/pregnancy can take a lot out of a goat (or person!), in my opinion.
    They seem to do just fine in the cold. They have a barn to hang out in but still spend plenty of time outside as well.
    I have only been milking once per day. I left her kids on her during the day and then locked them up seperately at night. That way, she was full for milking in the morning and her kids took care of the evening milking. Also, if we were going to be gone for the weekend or whatever, I just left the kids with her the entire time and they took care of both milkings. That seemed to work just fine and then I didn't have to hire anyone to milk for me.

  3. says

    These are GREAT tips~
    We’ve had chickens for just over a year and now have the chance to get goats from a friend who has raised them for years. She has 2 milking does right now that she can’t keep. These tips helped…but we’re ‘scrambling’ a little bit to get fencing put up and a shelter…

  4. Bethany says

    I just started milked and improvised in much the same way. I use my stainless stock pot for a “bucket.” Also, for my udder wash/teet dip, I use water, dish soap (natural and biodegradable, of course!), and a few drops of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial, so for me, it was the perfect addition!

  5. says

    I am still in the goat-owner-wanna-be stage and have been doing lots of reading on the topic. Thank you for all the helpful, practical information!

  6. Christa says

    We’ve been raising dairy goats for 15 years(4H project run amuck). I do use disposable wipes, as we currently are milking 8 goats and a cow, and washing all those wash cloths and towels is overwhelming. However, I make my own wipes. I cut a roll of Bounty paper towels (the only brand that doesn’t fall apart) in half, and remove the core. In a plastic container that fits the half roll, I put 20 drops of Grapefruit seed extract, 8 drops of tea tree oil, 8 drops of lavender oil, 8 drops of dish soap, and 2 1/2 cups of hot water. I put in the half roll of paper towels, and after it has absorbed all the water, I pull the end of the first towel out of the center, and we’re ready to go. Using a separate towel for each animal is important to avoid spreading mastitis and skin infections. This formula is gentle and healing to the skin, but is also naturally cleansing and disinfectant.

  7. Sally H says

    We have had dairy goats for 10 years now. I use a wet kitchen towel to wash udders — just water, nothing else — folding it to a new side for each goat. So far, no problems. I used a 4-cup glass measuring cup for my milk bucket until I found a small stainless steel one at a yard sale. I love your coffee filter idea! I do use my milk filter for other straining — chicken stock for example.

  8. says

    what a wonderful website, so glad I found you, was going to go with comercial pariafanalia but would much prefer this, thanks a bunch Sam

    • Jill says

      Sam, I just use a handful of grain. I don’t give them much grain otherwise, but that is their special treat.

  9. Shelley says

    Would love to have a dairy goats! Not sure they could handle the high water table here, though. I would be concerned they would get foot rot. I have a mostly dry acre at the back, I wonder if that would work? I would only need to raise enough goats to supply the 3 of us with milk. Would also be interested in making soap +/or cheese. Is butter even possible? Any advice would be appreciated, Jill! Thx!

    • Jill says

      An acre would probably work, as long as you supplemented with hay, etc. Not sure about the foot rot- that’s one problem we definitely don’t have here in DRY old Wyoming! :)
      Goat’s cheese and soaps are very popular and there are many recipes available. I believe that butter is possible, but you’ll need a cream separator if you are looking to have any sort of quantity. Depending on the feed and time of year, you might get a 1/2 inch or so of cream at the top, but that is all I ever got. Good luck with your future goat adventures!

  10. Kim W says

    Jill, lm so happy to have found your blogs. I just bought a 27 acre farm that includes 2 huge commercial chicken houses. I don’t have a clue what to do with them, but use them for storage lol. I work full time, but would love to try raising chickens for organic eggs as well as goats for milk and cheese. I look forward to learning so much from you. Ummm you think the county extension office can teach me real world milking? Your new farming friend.

    • Jill says

      Way to go Kim! I’m glad you found me too. Your extension office would be a great place to start to learn about milking. Best of luck!

  11. Jenny says

    I kept goats years ago and would collect what we did not drink each day in a glass 2 gallon jar at the back of the fridge. When it was full I’d make cheese!

  12. Jennifer says

    I was wondering if you have any ideas for a reluctant nanny? Kim is my only doe with a nursing kid right now that is 2 weeks old. She is Boer, not a dairy goat. However, she seems to have A LOT of milk. She has never been milked on a regular basis, but did great for 2 days. My problem is that after 2 good days of milking – first a pint, then a quart – she refuses to stand still now. :-( I am quite exasperated, and don’t know what to do. I know a “free standing” milking stand is not ideal, but I don’t have a milking shed at the moment, and no funds to build one. Today is the 3rd day in a row that she has put her foot into the container and spilled everything! I’m ready to tie her feet to the milking stand! Help!

    • says

      Are you letting her eat while you milk? That has helped me– and just keep working at it– sometimes those does can be a bit of a challenge at first, but stay consistent and they’ll come around. Good luck!

      • Jennifer says

        I do let her eat. I think it bothers her if other animals are around, although the first 2 days it didn’t seem to. today she shifted around so much she wound up with her back end on the the ground and her front end still in the stanchion. I had to release her. Should I quit milking her when she protests? Or find some way to make her be still? Or find a way to build a shed so she can’t see anything? I really need this milk! :-(

        • says

          Here is what I would do:
          Go to gently touch her teats. Start by brushing your hand over her udder as fast as you can. As in– remove your hand BEFORE she has a chance to spazz out. Gradually keep increasing the length and frequency of your touches, until she learns that she can “handle it.” (This is the same way I’ve taught horses not to kick at something I’m touching to their hind legs. You just want to leave your hand there until right before you feel her start to freak out.)

          And then, one you’ve established that and are into a semi-normal milking routine, make sure that you DON’T remove your hand if she starts to kick or move.

          So, if she’s at the point where you know she can handle the touching, and she’s not scared, but rather just being contrary, you need to show her that no matter how big of a tantrum she throws, you are still going to keep milking. (No different that when you tell a kid he can’t have candy, and he throws a fit and rolls on the floor, and you wait until he is done. But– your answer stays the same.)

          So, if she goes to kick or lay down, keep your hand on the udder until she calms down– THEN you can remove it. Don’t expect any house-worthy milk for the first few days– just give it to the chickens as it’ll probably be full of dirt and hair by the time your session is over. 😉 But it will be worth it.

          If you stop milking everytime she fidgets, then she is basically training you to leave her alone when she protests. 😉

          I hope that makes sense! It’s kinda hard to relay the concept via typing– much easier in person.

  13. Leigh says

    HELP Please.
    I have a fainting goat who is 7 years old and now producing milk. I called the vet and she came out and milked her but wasn’t able to get but a small bucket of milk. She has not been milked since and I’m worried about her health. I’ve researched building or buying a stanchion but still have not acquired one. A member of our local Humane Society has volunteered to teach me how to milk her once I have a stanchion. Do I have to milk her? Is not milking her going to jeopardize her health in anyway? I have no experience as you can gather. I have her brother two. Any suggestions would be grateful.

    • says

      Hi Leigh,
      If you don’t milk her, she will gradually dry up. So unless you are hoping to have milk to drink, it sounds like the drying-up option may be your best bet.

      You will need to watch her for mastitis at first (the udder will be super hot and lumpy feeling), but if there is no demand, her supply will decrease. Hope that helps!

  14. Leigh says

    Thank you for the quick response.
    I do not plan to use the milk so the drying-up option would really be best. I worry because she has quite a bit of milk and it appears to me she has a difficult time walking. She seems very animated and playful though. I will keep an eye on her and if I suspect something is wrong I will have my mobile vet out here quickly to check on her. Many thanks from me and especially from Monique, the goat.

  15. Leanne says

    We are getting our first dairy goats here shortly. I was wondering where you get the plastic lids for your canning jars. I think I want to go the canning jar route for our milk storage and I am having trouble finding ones that just have one lid and not a lid and rim. I see you said to use plastic lids, but would love to know where you get them. I have been reading all your posts the last few days! Thank you for all the info. I’m excited about getting our goats even though I am still nervous of giving raw milk to our children ages one and three.

  16. Jennifer J says

    I was so happy to come across your website when looking for photo ideas of milking stands. My husband took the same idea that you showed and made a milking stand for our Alpine yearling doe (to be bred this fall) and two Nubian doelings (three months) We have started our new adventure this summer and have had the goats only 2 weeks. I have a question? We originally went for a milking doe Lamancha and the Alpine yearling. The Lamancha decided that we were not to be her new owners by escaping into other in-closures while we tried to have close up look at her and watch her (try her out) milk. The owner ended up keeping her and we bought the above. My question is, I still want to get a goat in milk now for our family instead of buying milk from a near by goat farm, how long do I keep the new goat (we have a couple of prospects) away from my other group? I have really enjoyed reading your blog, we have a lot of things in common. You even inspire me to start my own blog on our new adventures in homesteading! We live in central MN where we get all sorts of different weather! So I have been finding lots of information by reading.
    Jennifer J

    • says

      Hey Jennifer-
      I’m not sure I fully understand your question– are you wondering about quarantine times when you bring the new goat into your herd? As long as the new goat is healthy, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You might also ask the owners if they have had it tested for CL or CAE– if it comes up clean on those tests, you should be fine.

  17. says

    Hi Jill,

    I have came across your site a few times. We have just came out with a new milker called the Ultimate Ez Milker. We have been in the world market place for 9 years now with our hand milker the Udderlyez. Would you be interested in doing something with me on our products? We are a family owned business and everything I invented was out of sheer necessity. I believe in education and my web site proves it. I have listened to the customers and upgraded as we went along. Send me your thoughts! I also have a youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/udderlyez1 with many more video’s on.

    Kind Regards,

    Buck Wheeler
    EZ Animal Products.