A Guide to Collecting and Handling Milk
I. Questions About Goat Milk from Katherine’s Caprine Corner
- We are having repeated problems with positive tests for bacteria in our milk and after using intra-mammary prescription antibiotics. We would prefer to use raw milk and want to avoid the $100 cost per round of testing.
- Does the creamiest and best milk come first or last when you milk? Which should be kept for the house or for animals?
- How many and what kind of goats would it take to have an adequate cheese and milk business? Can I do this in southeast Texas on 2.5 acres?
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I. Questions About Goat Milk from Kat’s Caprine Corner.
Katherine Drovdahl MH CR CA CEIT DipHIr QTP answers reader questions about goat health in Katherine’s Caprine Corner, in each issue of Goat Journal.
How does somatic cell count (SCC) relate to milk quality and taste?
Somatic cell count indicates the approximate amount of white blood cells present in a sample of milk sent to a lab. The accuracy of this reading can also be affected by shedding of old cellular tissue in the udder, which occurs more in the fall and winter as the doe’s udder prepares for the next lactation. Goats also tend to have higher numbers than cows with the same situation and tend to be higher during times of stress. In general, the higher the number over 100,000 would indicate the potential for mastitis and negatively impacts milk quality. Taste may or may not be affected depending on the pathogen in the milk if one is present, so is not a good indicator of whether an udder is healthy or not. CMT (California mastitis test) can be helpful in determining a problem as well as sending a sample to a veterinarian university lab for testing. In a healthy goat udder, factors of butterfat, feed quality, and handling the milk directly affect milk quality.
We are having repeated problems with positive tests for bacteria in our milk and after using intra-mammary prescription antibiotics. We would prefer to use raw milk and want to avoid the $100 cost per round of testing.
First, be sure you how to properly give an intra-mammary infusion. Second, make sure the treatment chosen is used for the appropriate length of time, which may be longer (off label with vet’s permission) than the directions indicated on the product. If that is the case, get a vet’s advice on milk withdrawals. Third, minimize lab work costs by taking samples from one or two affected goats yourself and sending them directly to a state veterinary laboratory. Generally what affects one will usually affect more than one. If multiple goats are affected, consider the milking procedure or condition of goats’ stalls or pens, in order to avoid any further cross-contamination between goats or from lying on bacteria-laden areas.
Should colostrum and milk be heat treated or raw?
That depends on the health of your herd. Conditions that can be passed through the milk or colostrum to your kids include mycoplasma, Johne’s, CAE, CL if it’s in the mammary, as well as bacterial accumulations due to a mastitic condition. The current thought on Johne’s at WADDL (Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory) is that it transfers to the kids during the first 48 hours of colostrum feedings. It also can withstand heat treating temperatures. So if you do not have a herd that is blood tested clean (with PCR fecal tests if needed) then I would not use any colostrum from that doe. CAE and mycoplasma can be passed through colostrum or milk if fed raw. If your herd is clean from such problems, then raw milk, complete with all of its nutrients and enzymes, will result in healthier kids. However, if you have one of the aforementioned conditions in your herd or do not know the status of your animals, then you will need to heat treat the colostrum and pasteurize the milk. It’s better to do that than to later find out that you contaminated your kids with a condition that can cost them their lives. To learn more about these conditions consult the internet or a ruminant veterinarian.
How do I heat treat colostrum?
Colostrum will have its antibodies destroyed at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit and will turn into a pudding mess, so you must keep it below that. When we used to heat treat, we would set up a water bath on the stove and set the pan with colostrum in it while keeping a thermometer clipped into the water. Once the water reached 137-138 degrees Fahrenheit, we kept it at that temperature for an hour. It’s always recommended to have pretreated frozen colostrum on hand to feed those babies right after they are born so you don’t have to wait that hour to get something into them.
Does the creamiest and best milk come first or last when you milk? Which should be kept for the house or for animals?
More of your butterfat comes at the end of the milking. As a goat starts dropping her milk into her udder from the cells, some of the butterfat will float up to the top of the fluid to be milked out at the end. A higher percentage of the fat will also be near the top of the milk in your pail. Which milk you decide to keep in the house and which to feed the animals is personal preference. Remember that the first two or three squirts will be higher in bacteria and the higher percentage fat milk will probably have better flavor and probably a greater yield if you are making products such as cheese and yogurt.
How many and what kind of goats would I need for an adequate cheese and milk business? Can I do this in southeast Texas on 2.5 acres?
It is viable to have a cheese and milk operation on 2.5 acres with goats if your state will allow you to do this. You should first contact your state about legal requirements are before you start acquiring animals, equipment, and building any structures. I would plan on dry-lotting your goats in smaller paddocks while keeping most of your property open as pasture for some turnout time; otherwise, your 2.5 acres will be dirt. Visit several dairies in your area and learn more about caring for goats in a hot and humid climate. You definitely need to study parasite management, quality feed types and mold-free storage, feed sourcing, and disease prevention/avoidance/biosecurity as well as goat care in your climate. Also find out if you have a market for your products where you live, what the selling price would be, and what your state requires for making, storing, and transporting said goods. Does your state allow or require on-farm sales? Is it legal to sell at farmers markets? Does it require special transport equipment? Must your milk products be pasteurized, or is raw milk/products an option? Also study costs up front: it does require a financial outlay to acquire quality goats and to care for them correctly. Goat type is really personal preference. There are successful dairies and cheese processors in all of the dairy goat breeds. While you are in the learning curve, I recommend you get set up for just a few goats and learn with two milking does, going through a kidding and milking season with them. You need to assess the amount of work involved, if you are able/willing to milk them every 12 hours, and if they will work with your life and daily schedule. For people who run into roadblocks with their state inspectors, products such as goat milk soap and lotions can turn into viable businesses over time. Above all, love what you do.
II. How to Milk a Goat: Are You Hurting or Helping?
by Katherine Drovdahl
Milking a goat is not quite as simple as it sounds! While nearly anyone can squeeze milk out of teat, milking goats the right way protects the udder and that milk that you work so hard to produce! It also takes time to develop coordination and efficiency. For those that have hand-milked goats for some time, I can see that grin as you recollect spilled buckets, milk running down your wrists and arms, and perhaps a dancing goat or two.
Before you head out to the barn, do your goat a favor: Please keep those fingernails short so you are less likely to pinch skin or a teat.
Ideally, you want a location that is quiet and peaceful with a good temperature and protection from wind and weather. That may be in a corner of a garage or shed, under a tree in summer, or a dedicated milk room. You want your goat to be relaxed and you want to enjoy the experience.
Lighting is important so you can see that your goat udder and teats are clean. You need to watch that the milk is clean without lumping and is not collecting debris. Also inspect equipment for safety and make sure nothing in the area will trip you.
Your milk stand enables your goat to focus on her feed and to be restrained from capricious antics. How many of us forgot to lock the goat stanchion then the goat finished her feed while you were still milking? Spilled milk, twisting goats attempting to get at someone else’s feed, and barnyard entertainment at your expense! Always check your stand for loose nuts, sharp edges, that it sits firmly on the ground without rocking, and for a slip-free platform. I keep wood shavings handy in case a milk stand gets wet. They help absorb the milk, counter some bacteria, and give traction on the surface including a wet floor. They sweep up easily when I’m done.
Have your milking equipment (bucket and milk storage containers) ready before you get your goat. Stainless steel or glass containers will not leach flavors or chemicals into the milk and both can be sanitized effectively. Here we hand-milk into stainless and store it in quart canning jars, which cool quickly in ice water for a high-quality, tasty milk.
After I load my goats, I use a natural teat spray on each teat then wipe it off with a clean paper towel so dirty water doesn’t run onto the orifice area. If you get dirt in the towel, repeat the process until they are clean. This is called a “pre-dip.” I don’t use actual dips because they become contaminated as you go from goat to goat. To glove up or not glove up is a personal preference, but be sure your hands and fingernails are clean so you don’t carry more bacteria to that teat.
It’s show time! Roll up those sleeves and position your milk stool on either side or behind your goat. If the goat is jumpy, get them used to milking from the side before you attempt to milk or strip from the back. Roll up your sleeves, get your milk bucket in place, take your dominant hand with the back of it facing your face, and spread the thumb away from the fingers. Then rotate your hand laterally or toward the outside so the back of your thumb is facing up and your fingers are facing out. Now clasp the top of the goat’s teat below the udder floor and clamp it shut. Make sure you do not have udder tissue, only teat tissue in that clamp, so you don’t ruin the udder floor or shape or have it drop into the teat. Clamp flat, not in a round shape, with your thumb and pointer finger. Then squeeze without pulling the teat itself down, so you don’t damage the udder or stretch out the teat! Start your squeeze with the top pointer and middle finger, then index then pinky. Start with just one hand for a few squirts. Aim for a steady, strong stream that lands in the milk bucket.
Keep a second bucket on hand. For every inch or two of milk, dump into the second bucket so you can save some in case your first bucket gets dumped over while you are learning. That second or third squirt can be checked for unusual milk (mastitis) with a CMT test paddle, test strip, or a strainer developed for checking milk to make sure it’s usable in the house. Now after three to five squirts, try with your non-dominant hand. Then try it with both hands, squirting both teats simultaneously. Don’t worry about alternating hands until you’ve some practice. Also be prepared for really sore hands for several days, as you may be working little muscles and tissue that aren’t used to exercising in that fashion.
So you’ve been milking several minutes and the streams are getting thinner. It’s time to bump the udder for more letdown. Gently but firmly, either massage or bump up into the udder tissue. You do not need to bump as hard as an excited and hungry kid; just firm enough to get up into the udder tissue. Repeat three or four times or until you feel more milk drop into the lower udder or teat. Then milk that out. With most goats, you will do this two to four times before you are done milking.
Now post-spray the teats to encourage the orifices to close sooner and to decrease any bacteria on teat ends. This is a great time to apply a skin conditioner or natural salve to encourage udder and skin wellness. Pour or strain your milk into jars, set in ice and water.
Well done! You’ll soon be able to teach someone else how to milk a goat!
Originally published in the September/October 2018 issue of Goat Journal.
Katherine and her beloved husband Jerry are owned by their LaManchas, horses, alpacas, and gardens on a small piece of Washington State paradise. Her varied international alternative degrees and certifications, including Master of Herbology and lifelong experience with creatures of many kinds, give her unique insight into guiding others through human or creature wellness problems. Her wellness products and consultations are available at www.firmeadowllc.com.
III. How to Pasteurize Milk at Home
Pasteurizing Milk Takes Time But Avoids Problems Later
by Marissa Ames, Editor of Goat Journal
Learning how to pasteurize milk at home is just one facet of owning dairy animals. A crucial one.
The call came straight from the USDA: “Call me back when you get this. We need to talk about your goat.”
I had adopted a sweet LaMancha and her six-day-old babies. The goat’s previous owner had died, and his niece wasn’t set up for caring for goats. I took them home and kept them separated from my other goats until test results came back.
A new goat owner, I needed assistance with the blood draw. The representative of the Nevada Goat Producers Association pointed to three check-boxes for the three big, bad goat diseases: CL, CAE, Johnes. “And if you intend to drink her milk,” she said, “I recommend testing for these as well.” Brucellosis: check. Q fever: check.
The goat tested positive for Q fever. And the results were so important that the state veterinarian called me personally.
After a moment of panic, I explained my setup: I was a small-scale goat owner, not a business of any sort. But yes, I did intend to drink the milk. And he explained that my goat could have caught Q fever anywhere: it’s spread by ticks but it’s transmitted to humans and other goats mostly through placenta/fetal tissue and through milk. The primary symptom of Q fever in goats is abortions and/or low birthweight, failure-to-thrive offspring. Because this goat had come with two extremely healthy babies, he theorized that she had been treated for Q fever and the test had merely detected antibodies from an old case.
“…So, do I have to get rid of my goat?”
He chuckled. “No, you can keep your goat. But if you don’t already know, learn how to pasteurize milk.”
If you step into the shallowest depths of the homesteading world, you’ll hear outcries about raw milk benefits and why we shouldn’t have to pasteurize. And the truth is: raw milk has outstanding benefits if all is well with the animal. But many goat illnesses transmit through milk: brucellosis, Q fever, caseous lymphadenitis. A century ago, before refrigerated trucks brought milk from the countryside into urban areas, raw cow milk was a major vector of tuberculosis.
If your animal hasn’t been tested clean of all the diseases I listed above, I suggest you learn how to pasteurize milk. If you receive raw milk from someone who has not received a clean test of those diseases, learn how to pasteurize milk.
But avoiding diseases, though it’s the most important reason, isn’t the only reason to learn how to pasteurize milk. It extends the milk expiration date and it helps with dairy crafting projects.
One of my writers for Goat Journal had goat milk and freeze-dried cultures in hand, ready to make chèvre cheese. She followed the instructions perfectly except for one: The packet holding the cultures specifically said, “heat one gallon of pasteurized milk to 86 degrees F.” She had purchased the milk and followed the same food safety rules most home cooks learn: cool it, refrigerate it. After about four days in the refrigerator, she warmed and cultured the milk. The next day, it was still liquid and didn’t smell all that great. Something — it could have been anything, really — had contaminated that milk in those short days. Perhaps bacteria already existing in the milk, which wouldn’t have made humans sick but was plentiful enough that the cheesemaking cultures didn’t have room to grow.
By learning how to pasteurize milk, you gain more control over those beneficial microbes needed to make homemade yogurt, sour cream, or making goat cheese. I will even re-pasteurize my store bought milk if I’m about to add dairy cultures. Just in case.
How to Pasteurize Milk at Home:
Pasteurizing milk is this simple: Heat it to 161 degrees F for at least 15 seconds or to 145 degrees F for 30 minutes. And there are several easy ways to do this*:
Microwave: Though I wouldn’t recommend this method, it would kill pathogens if you topped 161 degrees F for the required 15 seconds. But it’s difficult to judge temperature and hot spots in microwaved food, meaning your milk may burn or not all areas may reach safe levels.
Slow Cooker: I use this method for my yogurt and chèvre to save on steps and dishes. Simply heat milk on low until hot enough. This should take 2-4 hours, depending on crock size and milk volume. It’s perfect for when I have three-hour meetings but still want to make cheese. I have never had scorched milk unless I use the high setting.
Stovetop: Advantages to this method: it’s quick and can be done in any pot that holds liquid. Caveats: it’s easy to scorch milk if you don’t pay careful attention and stir often. I use medium heat, but that means I must pay close attention. Any higher and I accidentally burn the milk.
Double Boiler: This follows the same concept as stovetop, but the extra water layer between pots keeps you from scorching the milk. If you have a double boiler, take advantage of it. You’ll save time and hassle.
Vat Pasteurizer: These are expensive, and a lot of households can’t pay that kind of money. Small farms running dairy operations may want to consider one, though. These use “low temperature pasteurization” to keep milk at 145 degrees F for 30 minutes then they rapidly cool the milk, which preserves flavor better than the higher temperatures do.
Other options: The steamer feature of a cappuccino machine effectively pasteurizes milk if it brings temperatures above 161 degrees F for over 15 seconds. Some people have even used their sous vide water bath units to pasteurize, since those devices are designed to reach and hold a specific temperature for a specific amount of time.
*If your state allows you to pasteurize and sell your animal’s milk outside of an inspected food establishment, you will probably be required to use a specific method such as a pasteurizing vat.
Chilling the Milk
When I make yogurt and chèvre, I turn off the slow cooker and let temperatures descend to necessary levels for culturing. But with those dairy products, I don’t mind a little “cooked” flavor because the probiotics and acidification add other flavors that mask the taste.
If you’re pasteurizing milk for drinking, consider flash-chilling it to preserve the best flavor. Just sticking the pot in a fridge or freezer sounds easy, but all that heat could raise the temperature and humidity in your fridge to unsafe levels. Steam condenses on freezer racks. I find the easiest way to chill milk fast is to put a lid on the pot, to avoid splashing water in the milk. Then set the milk in a sink full of ice water. I keep quite a few ice packs in my freezer for this purpose, to save on the amount of ice cubes I need to make or buy.
If you want to make cheese right away, let the milk cool to the temperature necessary for your specific cultures. Or cool it, pour into a sterilized container, and store the milk in your refrigerator.
Learning how to pasteurize milk at home is a critical part of a home dairy, whether you need to avoid a diagnosed or unknown disease, control the desired cultures within a cheese project, or extend milk’s expiration date for longer storage.