Good Milking Procedures
Maxine Kinne

Dairy guidelines proven to maintain udder integrity and milk quality start with establishing a routine milking order. Does get used to a certain order and production suffers if even the smallest things change. 

Milking Order

1. Older does
2. First fresheners
3. Does with high somatic cell counts (if known)
4. Sick does without active mastitis
5. Does with mastitis

Does with mastitis are always milked last to prevent spreading bacteria to the next udder. In my experience, mastitis is rare in pygmies because they have relatively good udder attachments and small teat orifices. Sanitation management is very important in avoiding mastitis.

Somatic cells fight bacteria inside the udder that cause mastitis. There are always a certain number of somatic cells in the milk, but there are very many during any degree of mastitis. Lab testing can detect somatic cells in milk. On the farm, the California Mastitis Test is very reliable and can be used when you milk.

Does milk more willingly if they are trained to the stanchion first. Get them used to the stanchion by feeding them there.

Wash and dry your hands before you are going to milk. It is unnecessary to wash the entire udder before milking, but washing and drying each teat helps prevent mastitis.Wash each teat with a separate paper towel and discard. Dry each teat with a separate paper towel and discard. Never reuse a towel. (Teats can also be sanitized by predipping and drying each one with a separate paper towel instead of washing.)

Udder preparation relaxes the doe so she will let her milk down. Milk let-down is due to the oxytocin response. When a doe is excited or upset, she releases adrenaline which cancels oxytocin, and it is impossible for her to give milk until the adrenaline is used up. When it is, it takes another few minutes of preparation to elicit another oxytocin response. Loud, unusual noise or actions evoke fright and adrenaline, so a calm routine is always required. Massage the udder for 30 seconds or so after washing to feel udder texture. Lumps, hot spots or injuries may be found at this time.

Examine the few streams of milk from each teat for abnormalities. The dark, perforated insert in a strip cup lets milk though while retaining clots or strings. The Pygmy doe usually gives a small stream of milk, and a clean, dark cloth or a dark-colored dish works well. Check the milk from each teat at each milking. The first few streams of milk contain the most bacteria, so it is a good idea to discard this anyway.

Try to completely empty the udder within five minutes after udder preparation - oxytocin response is the greatest during those five minutes. Grasp the base of each teat just below the udder floor with your thumb, index and middle fingers. Delicate tissue may be injured if you squeeze any part of the udder. Milk in the teat cistern is trapped when you squeeze the base of the teat with your thumb and index finger. Expel the milk using all 3 fingers, your middle finger following the index finger in gentle squeezing. Pulling on the teat or sliding your fingers down it may injure udder or teat tissue. Alternate the streams, left and right. Developing coordination takes time - don't give up. Your hands may tire and cramp, but it gets easier as you build up milking muscles and coordination. At the end of the milking, massage the udder to release the last of the milk and milk that out.

After milking, dip the entire length of each teat with a good teat dip to kill bacteria at the orifice and help close the orifices. Teat dipping is very important. The dairyman I heard at at a seminar said, "If I had only one cow, and she had only one teat, I would dip that teat after each and every milking!"

If you have to reconstitute a dip, it is important to make it the proper strength. Strong solutions can damage the skin, and it is ineffective if it is too weak. Follow the label directions. Ideally, fresh teat dip is used on each teat at each milking. Contaminated teat dip is no longer effective and may harbor bacteria. I use a small glass jar with a 1"-deep plastic lid. I snap off the lid, fill it about 3/4 full, coat each teat, and discard the used portion. Besides the quality of the dip, good coverages is the most important part of dipping. A drop of teat dip should be visible on the end of each teat. (Fight-Bac teat spray also works very well instead of dipping.) After dipping or spraying, keep the doe standing for 15 minutes or so, maybe with fresh hay in the manger. If she lays down, the teat dip won't work as well as it should.

Milk is a delicate product and should be filtered immediately after milking to remove hair and other contaminants. Then it should be cooled as quickly as possible. Milk filters are available at feed stores and catalog suppliers. Strain into a glass jar and refrigerate immediately.

Milking sounds complex, but it is very easy. Having the right equipment is a big help. Good habits in procedure and technique are important in the long run, both for your enjoyment of the milking process and maintaining the health of your does.

Related Reading

Pygmy Goat Milk
Equipment for Milking the Pygmy Doe
Pygmy Goat Milk Quality

Home      Articles      Links


Copyright 1989
Updated 2000
All rights reserved