If you’ve never milked a goat before, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like. You have no reference point for how the teats dangle in your hands, the warmth of the udder, or the intimacy of the experience. It’s something your dad, your cousin or your grandmother might have done growing up, but nothing they ever described to you in detail. For first-time milkers, it elicits a multitude of reactions, anywhere from relaxing and meditative to creepy and gag-reflex inducing.
I’ve taught nearly 1,000 people how to milk a goat, and their reactions are similar to what I imagine yours will be, should you ever find yourself in the milking seat.
But first, we should start with goat anatomy. A goat’s teats are the two pendulous milk receptacles attached to her bag-like udder. The udder contains the mammary glands which produce the milk. And, just like a nursing woman, you must milk both teats in order to get out all of the milk. Milking only one side will leave her uncomfortably lopsided.
In order to milk a goat, you must first get her — you never milk the boys — on the milking stand. That’s where she’ll receive treats to eat and have her neck snugly squeezed by the blade-less guillotine system that keeps her from jumping off the stand when she’s finished snacking. Once secured, and content, you pull up a kindergarten sized chair, sit down beside her and begin cleaning her teats with a warm, damp cloth – our old, torn up t-shirts, sheets and towels have found new lives as udder wipes.
After cleaning her teats, place the milk pot under her abdomen. (She’ll give you a sideways glance from her horizontally-pupilled eyes, and you’ll debate whether or not you should ask her out to dinner before commencing.)
Your first touch on her teat invites recoil of your entire arm. You weren’t expecting it to be WARM — you’re not sure WHAT you were expecting, but warmth wasn’t it. But after your brain scolds you for being a wimp, your second approach results in full contact with the closest teat.
You position your hand so the very highest part of her teat is lodged in the web space between your thumb and forefinger. Your thumb presses up and into her udder, at a 45-degree angle, while you focus on squeezing your index finger toward the bottom of your thumb as tightly as possible. Then slowly, with sloth-like intensity, you drum your middle finger, then ring finger, and finally small finger down.
YOU SQUEEZE YOUR HARDEST and one drop comes out. You shriek!!! You got milk out!
With your next squeeze, you concentrate more intently, repeating the milking motion and this time the warm milk dribbles down your forearm. Then, with one more determined attempt to flush out a steady stream of milk, you misfire and spray yourself.
You promise to practice your aim, but for now, you have successfully milked a goat. Only 129 squeezes to go and you’ll have her empty!
Lindsey is a city girl turned urban farm girl. She and her family are the proud stewards of a few milking goats, a lot of working chickens, an organic garden and a budding orchard. Just around the corner is the city. But she, and her farm, are hidden by the rocks. Follow her on Twitter (@goatcheeselady) and FaceBook (The Goat Cheese Lady) or visit her website (thegoatcheeselady.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Lindsey at: firstname.lastname@example.org.