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How to Train a Milk Goat

One of our goats is going to be kidding for the first time. That means she needs to learn how to stand nicely on the milking stand and allow me to milk her. Let’s look at how to train a milk goat.

First let me say, if you are a visual learner, please scroll down to my YouTube videos where I cover this process in real time.

How I Train Animals

I have trained several animals to be good milkers. I’ve also done training with horses, dogs, cats, and even rabbits.

No matter what animal you are working with, it’s good to have a mindset that you are starting with as you begin and continue training.

For me, there are two training philosophies that have stuck with me since I was young. Both stem from my lifelong passion for horses.

The first comes from Misty of Chincoteague, and EXCELLENT horse book for young enthusiasts. Long story short, the grandpa in the story trains foals from a wild herd of horses. He teaches his grandkids that you don’t “Break” a horse, you “gentle” a horse. Teaching an animal something should never be aggressive, rough, or spirit breaking for them. It should be a patient method of gentling them.

The second philosophy comes from The Man from Snowy River. Jim Craig, the main character and poster boy from my youth, says to his love interest, “You work with a horse, not against him.” It’s the same with any animal you are training. Work with their natural abilities and instincts. It’s not a fight, it should be a cooperative effort with mutual understanding and trust developed over time.

How to Train a Milk Goat

These are the basic steps I follow when training a new goat to be milked. Every goat is going to be different. Some will work with you quickly and be milk stand trained in no time. Other goats will be stubborn and take longer. Remember to be patient, repetitive, and don’t loose your cool.

training a milk goat rough and tumble farmhouse

Start Early

If you want to know how to train a milk goat, some of the best advice I can give you is to start early. Introduce them to the stand about one month before they are due to kid. This give them plenty of time to get used to the idea so they aren’t suddenly being asked to do a half dozen weird and scary things.

Introduce New Ideas Slowly

The Milk Stand

The first few times I do milk stand training I don’t even care if the goat gets on the milk stand. I begin by putting a few handfuls of grain in the feeder and let the goat come in and check everything out. If she seems alright, I will pet her and brush her and talk nicely to her.

When she finishes her food if she wants to sniff around a little or even jump on the stand, let her do it.

I’ll repeat this 1-2 times a day for a few days, until the doe has no hesitation around the milk stand.

Getting on the Milk Stand

Once the doe is comfortable around the stand, I’ll set it up so if she wants the feed, she has to get on the stand. I don’t force her up there or lead her up myself. I just make it so the only way she can access the grain is by jumping up there.

Once she hops up again I brush her, pet her, talk with her, etc. I do not close the head gate at this point.

Repeat this process a few times until the goat trots out and hops up on the stand with out a second thought.

Closing the Head Gate

Once the doe has been eating a while on the stand and seems relaxed, experiment with closing the head gate. I wouldn’t even lock it at first, just close it so she gets used to the feeling. Once she seems like she doesn’t care or it doesn’t startle her, go ahead and lock it. If at any point in time this freaks out the goat too much, release the head gate and let her return to a place that she feels comfortable.

Begin to Handle the Udder

Once the goat is comfortable being on the milk stand you can begin to work towards her udder. This can easily be done during brushing. As you brush the goat, start to work towards her udder area. You can also introduce this step before you introduce the head gate.

Eventually swap the brushing out for petting the goat and begin to get her used to having her udder touched. Don’t spend a lot of time there at first. Brush it a time or two and move on.

If she stamps or jumps, leave it be for a bit, then come back again.

If she never seems to be settling into allowing your hand there, see troubleshooting below for ideas.

pouring milk rough and tumble farmhouse
Goat’s milk cheese in the making.

Introduce the Milk Bucket

The last step is to introduce a milk bucket. These can be clangy and awkward and add one more weird element to this whole process.

Start bringing the milk bucket to training sessions so she gets used to the sound, sight, and smell of it. As she is eating go ahead and put the bucket under her so she gets used to it being there.

Begin Milking

You’ve laid all the groundwork, now the time has come to begin milking the goat. She might not like it at first, she might stamp or pull away. Stop milking, let her calm down and return to her grain, then begin again.

When you first milk a new goat it can be a good idea to milk into a jar so you can hold that with one hand and her teat in the other. This reduces the odds of you losing all your milk with a cranky stamp or kick.

Troubleshooting

These are a few quick tips that might help when learning how to train a milk goat.

My goat is Freaking Out

If at any point your goat panics or gets scared, back off and move back to whatever step they last felt comfortable in. Go over this step with them for a few more sessions, then try adding the new element again.

How to Stop a Goat Kicking

A kicking goat can be more painful than you think and certainly is frustrating. There are two methods I have used to stop kicking. I prefer the first.

Glove on a Handle

Take a somewhat stiff glove, like a leather one, and tape it on a stick. As your goat eats her grain, use the glove on the stick to touch her udder. As she starts to kick, leave the glove there until she stops kicking. This might frustrate her or upset her, but the point is that she learns the glove isn’t hurting her and no matter how much she kicks it, it isn’t going away.

Hold a Foot

I find this method to be less effective but it might work on some goats. If your goat is particularly kicky with one foot, grasp it firmly but gently around the cannon bone (shin) and hold her foot down to the milk stand. This is worth trying a time or two, but if the goat continues to object try the glove method.

My Goat Eats the Grain too Fast

Some goats seem to be part vacuum and will clean up their grain ration before you can finish milking them. A good way to slow this down is to mix alfalfa pellets in with their grain. Introduce this a cup or two at a time so as not to shock their system with a rich feed.

Another option is to put large rocks in their feeder. Make sure these rocks are much bigger than the goat could get in their mouth or swallow. They’ll have to shove the rocks around to nibble up their feed which slows them down.

meat dairy goat rough and tumble farmhouse

My Goat Doesn’t Like the Milk Stand

It’s vitally important that your goat sees the milk stand as a positive place to be. Some people give shots or trim hooves on the milk stand. Not me. You want your goat to think of the milk stand as a place they get a sweet treat, a nice brush, and a gentle udder massage that relieves all that milk pressure.

If your goat has already experienced some negative things around the milk stand all is not lost. An option is to put the milk stand in the goat pen and let them play on it. If it becomes this normal thing they can be around and jump on and nothing bad happens, it can help to break the negative association.

Spend a lot of time on the first few steps in milk stand training and hopefully that will help.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to train a milk goat can be fun and rewarding. Remember to be patient and kind to your goat. This is all new and freaky for them, so treat them with respect and a positive attitude.

Looking for more goat content at our farmhouse? Please click here. Or possibly looking for some goat milk cheese recipes?

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how to train a milk goat rough and tumble farmhouse

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