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About Goats and Milking

Training a doe to the milkstand

April 1, 2023 (originally published on

During the last month of pregnancy, your doe should be getting up on the milking stand for a daily handful of grain. I also give a tablespoonful of dried raspberry leaves daily as a uterine toner, to help with birthing. While she's on the stand, I begin to place her feet and handle her udder so she can get accustomed to it before I need to milk her. Occasional treats and talking softly can help her to relax.

It seems that once the kids are a couple of days old, most goats nursing their own babies come to feel there's a conflict of interest regarding who should have access to their milk. Again, treats and gentle encouragement can help convince her to share.

Also helpful is removing her grain if she misbehaves, so that she can pay proper attention to the milking process without the distraction of food. She can have the grain back when milking is finished, but while she's actively being instructed, you'll want her attention focused on the process, including the occasional treats for good behavior.

At times, you may feel that you just need to get the doe milked. Maybe she's worn out your patience with her jumping, kicking, and squatting, or maybe you just need to get the job done so you can handle other obligations. In any event, you need to be able to milk the doe cleanly and efficiently without discomfort to either you or the doe.

To accomplish this, I have tried many methods over the years. For example, I've tried tying the doe's feet down to the milkstand, whereupon the doe either jumps and kicks the ties apart or simply squats down, crushing my hands between the milkpail and her udder. Good times. "Ah," you say, 'but you can put something under her to keep her from squatting." And having tried several variations on that theme, I say, "Much easier said than done effectively!" I also couldn't help worrying that a smooth foreudder was being damaged by the time I got a block or band or bucket far enough back under the goat to be effective at keeping that rear end up off the milk pail.

I tried hobbles, which were not particularly effective with a determined doe, who could still jump and squat quite effectively, plus the hobbles sometimes interfered with positioning the milk pail.

I tried diluting the doe's grain with alfalfa pellets or putting large rocks into her dish, so that it would take longer for her to finish eating than it took me to milk. In other households, a helper has hand-fed treats during the whole milking process in order to keep the doe from misbehaving. I simply don't have that option, so can't speak to it from personal experience, but it seems pretty inconvenient.

Obviously, a better solution was needed. After 12 years of trying different methods, I finally came up with a method that is very little hassle, works all the time, and causes no discomfort to the goat. That's not to say she won't fight it at first. You are, after all, restraining her, and no goat will put up with a new restraint without a fuss. But once she's used to it, she'll go on eating her grain and chewing her cud like nothing is going on, and you can, at long last, milk in perfect peace!

In the pictures, you will see the minimal equipment necessary for the goat's comfort and yours - an eyebolt, a carabiner, a short length of chain with loops big enough for the carabiner, and a dog's traffic leash about 12 inches long with the entire 12 inches being the loop-type handle. If you can't find a leash like this, I imagine a 12-inch loop of fat, soft rope with a swivel clip would work nearly as well, although the leash will be easier on the circulation to the leg.

Put your doe up on the milkstand and mark where her tail is. Mount the eyebolt about a foot above and five or six inches to the rear of the mark. Use the carabiner to attach the chain to the eyebolt. While the doe is standing on the stand, loop the dog leash handle around the cannon bone of the doe's hind leg leg farthest from the wall, and snug down the loop gently. This leg is the best choice because the it's harder for the doe to kick when this leg is tied. Next, lift the doe's leg until the top of her hock is about even with the bottom of her vulva. This lift is easiest done using the crook of your elbow to stabilize her hock. When her leg is in position, snap the leash onto the chain high enough to keep it in position, and stand back.

Watch the doe while she's sorting things out because her other rear foot may slip out from underneath her, and you'll want to be on hand to quickly help her back to a standing position. If you can't manage that, immediately unclip her leg, wait until she stands up again, and clip her leg back into position. I've never had a doe fall down more than once or twice. Most don't fall down at all.

When the doe has her leg up behind her this way, it is impossible for her to squat, jump, or kick effectively, so just go about your business. When you're finished milking, dipping, taping, or whatever, lift the doe's leg, again with the crook of your elbow, to unsnap the leash and remove it, then let the doe's leg down gently.

The first couple of times, your doe may need a little extra time to finish her grain, but soon she'll be munching carefree while you milk. Eventually, she'll become comfortable with being milked, and will stand well most of the time without your having to tie her leg up. When she does act up, though, you can be confident that you can handle the situation calmly and gently, and to your complete satisfaction!

NOTE: In the pictures, where FMCH Glimmercroft Annari Faurie AR*D was good enough to model for us even though she'd just been milked out, the eyebolt is not in the ideal position, being not far enough behind the Annari's tail, but it's good enough.

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