So, you’ve decided you want milk of your own. You’ve either decided on a goat or a cow. Maybe you’ve already bought one and are waiting for her to have her baby so you can start milking or maybe you are still looking. Either way, you’ve also started looking into milking- and there’s just so much information. You just want to milk the animal- do you really need SO MUCH stuff? It really shouldn’t be this hard, but with access to the internet comes access to almost too much knowledge. Well, fret no more, because I’m going to simplify it for you in this article (and I’ll even add links to where you can buy the stuff)!
Let’s talk about just the pure equipment first:
1. The Milk Pail– This is a given (I hope), but we still need to mention it. Sure, any pail would “work”, but there are some thing you want to keep in mind. First off, I highly recommend Stainless Steel. This will allow you to clean the bucket a lot better than something else, such as plastic, that might absorb bacteria. If you are drinking raw milk, this is especially important. I also recommend that you get a milk pail that is made to be a milk pail. Why? The biggest reason is that milk pails made to be milked into have a slightly different design. For one, they don’t have screws going into the side of the pail (this can be a place where bacteria could hide out). There are also several types (like this one) that come with a [tilt] handle on the bottom which makes pouring a lot easier!
2. The Strainer & Filters– Again, I recommend Stainless Steel for the sake of cleaning. When you’re done milking (especially because you are hand milking), you will want to strain the milk. This will rid of the milk of any debris that may have gotten into the milk. I recommend this strainer (especially for cows) because it holds a large quantity. We have tried small strainers, but we took more time waiting for it to filter than we did milking! What you strain the milk into is up to you. It could be a stainless steel pot or something of the sorts, but keep in mind you will be pouring the milk into jars/containers.
3. Something To Hold The Milk In– So you’ve milked and strained– so now what? I highly recommend Half Gallon Wide Mouth Mason Jars. Not only do they hold a whole half a gallon, but they are glass (easy to clean!) and you can see the cream line. Yes, the cream line! If you want to make butter or cheese, it’s super easy to use a Ladle to separate the cream.
Alright, so that’s not that bad- right?! Now, let’s talk about udder prep and what you need during the milking process.
1. The Strip Cup– The Strip cup is a must have in the dairy. But, what is it? The strip cup is a stainless steel cup with a mesh screen insert. The very first squirts of milk go in here (before you milk into your pail). Not only will this rid of the waxy plugs the girls have created in their teats (totally natural!), but it will also let you look at the milk. If you were to see chunks or abnormalities in the milk, you would know something was up.
2. Mastitis Testing Equipment– This is something I recommend you always having on hand. Since mastitis can appear so quickly, there is often very little time to get to the store and get what you need. There are two things you want to consider. The first are mastitis cards. If you were to see an abnormality or chunk in the milk, you just take a card and squirt some milk onto the designated areas. If the color changes (it’ll tell you what color on the box), then she has tested positive for mastitis. As a secondary precaution, I also recommend the California Mastitis Test. This is a more intensive test that has you squirt a certain amount of milk into a paddle. You then add a concentrate to the milk and follow a guide on the milks appearance. If it matches the chart, she has mastitis. If she does have mastitis, Today and Spectramast work well.
3. Udder Balms & Creams– While we don’t use it all the time, Udder Balm & Bag Balm are great things to have in the dairy. If you have a case of chapped or dry teats, Udder Balm works wonders. You can even use it on your own dry skin!
4. MicroFiber Dairy Towels– Again, a super handy thing to have in the dairy. These work wonders and dry up udders fast if they required a washing!
5. The Spray Bottle– Before you milk, you want to make sure that the udder is clean. It’s recommended to spray the udder using an iodine solution to accomplish this. The upwards spraying bottle works wonders for this. The bottle sprays up without you having to turn it all which ways.
6. The Dip Cup– A dip cup is a great thing to have as your “post dip” routine. For cows, I recommend the foaming dip cup. The foaming creates a lot less waste than traditional iodine dips. For goats, there isn’t a foaming dip cup (yet). We are left with this traditional cup. Note that the top is a lot shorter, which is important since goat teats are a lot smaller than cows! What the dip does is protect the teat from any harmful bacteria that may enter since the hole will remain open for a while after milking.
Fight Bac– Fight Bac is an aerosol spray that does the same thing as the dip cup. From the product description:
“Experts agree the single most important procedures in preventing mastitis is proper teat disinfection, and Fight Bac provides several improvements over traditional dipping. Vertical spray pattern clears residual milk from the teat orifice allowing the active ingredients to reach the opening and then the spray propellents chill the teat, enhancing closure of the orifice. No mixing or preparation is required and there is no waste, spillage or dip cups to become contaminated and spread infection. “
7. Foam-N-Dip Iodine Solution– If you get the foaming dip cups, you’ve got to get the foam-n-dip for it work properly. This iodine solution can also be used straight, without foaming, for goats. And, it can be mixed with water to use as the pre-dip when you spray the udder to clean it.
Now, you’ll probably need some paper towels and what not (stuff you can buy at a local store) for cleaning your bucket…but that’s about it, folks. To make it a lot easier for you, we have created a Hand Milking Starter Kit. This kit has everything you need to hand milk, except the containers you’ll put the milk in. Check it out here. If you already have a pail and strainer, we have also created an Udder Care Starter Kit, containing all the things you’ll need for udder prep and care. Check that one out here.
Standard disclaimer: This information should not replace professional advice by a qualified medical or veterinary practitioner. We are not doctors or veterinarians. We are simply sharing our experiences with you. We can’t prevent, cure, diagnose or treat and disease.