Milking a sheep or goat

Here you’ll find some tips with photos about how to milk a sheep or goat.

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1) The set up

For milking I get the sheep or goat near a post in the goat shed where I can tie her using her collar and a spare rope. I give her something to eat (at the moment I’m using dried bean husks). I sit beside her on a sack.

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2) Cleaning

I use a dry cloth to clean the udder before starting to milk.

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3) Milking

I hold a plastic cup in my left hand under the teat I am milking (sheep and goats have 2)! I use my right hand for milking. If necessary, I can use pressure from my left arm and shoulder to keep the animal in place – but this sheep is so docile she doesn’t need it! (Btw, in this photo you can see the baby sheep in the background. He is enclosed behind some gates that separate him from his mother, but they can still see and smell one another. Initially, you separate them for 3 hours, increasing it to 12 over a week or two.)

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4) Getting the milk into the teat

These animals have such teeny udders that it takes some practice to get the milk out! First you need to squeeze your thumb and index finger together at the top of the teat to hold milk in the teat so it doesn’t go back up into the udder.

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5) Getting the milk out of the teat

Then you close more fingers over the teat so the milk squirts out in a jet into your cup. It may just take one more finger, as the teats are so small, but on larger animals you would use all your fingers.

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6) Getting the milk into the cup

It is also a trick to get the cup in the right place so the milk lands in it rather than on you, on the goat, on the floor, on the shed wall – been there, done that! When you start milking, its helpful to get the technique of milking sorted before putting yourself under pressure to catch it in a cup. So practice lots just getting the milk out of the teat, before then trying to aim it into the cup. Since these animals are so small, as I milk I can’t really see what I am doing. So, I can feel where the teats are and I listen for the sound of the milk landing in the cup.

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7) Decanting the milk

Its helpful to have another covered container close by to pour milk into every now and again in case the animal kicks. The expression “don’t cry over spilt milk” is totally not true – spilt milk does make you cry!!

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8) Milk for the lamb/kid

Once you have finished milking, the lamb/kid can drink from its mother. It then spends the day in the field with her drinking when it likes. In theory, you could have a mother animal to milk without the baby, and just take all the milk yourself. However, it does mean that you have to milk morning and evening, or else her milk will dry up. I like to have the baby because if I am not there, or I need a day off, or am sick, or am away, the baby keeps drinking from the mother, which keeps the milk producing.

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9) Enjoying your milk!

This is what its all about! A glass of fresh, raw milk to start the day, not bad at all. Just strain it through a piece of thin, damp cloth before drinking. The yield is not much, but one glass is better than no glass! I am always on the lookout for bigger sheep and goats with big udders, so I hope over time to be getting more. In the meantime, I am getting lots of practice, and learning so much.

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2 thoughts on “Milking a sheep or goat

  1. Love your blog Katharine. It’s fun to read. Just don’t know how to go about hand milking especially with the teeny tiny teats of animals in Nigeria. Please which breed of sheep is this? Do you vat pasteurize your milk at all? Do you know where I can get animal rennet locally in Nigeria?

    Like

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