You may have noticed in some of my pictures that we have an inexpensive battery powered machine milker for our goat. We only have one goat in milk, so why did we bother buying a machine? It sort of seems like it’s against our usual frugal, make-do-with-what-you-have ideals.
We did learn to milk by hand at first, and we were all beginning to get used to it. We were starting to have more successes than losses in bringing home a pint of milk. But, we felt that a milker would help us to be more successful. There are several reasons why:
1) Our goat was used to it. Leslie came from a herd of over twenty goats, and the owner there used a machine milker to simplify her livestock tasks. Leslie is a bit older (about 5), was never kept on as a milk goat long term, and her only brief experiences with being milked were with a machine. So- she was a bit stuck in her ways when we got her. We decided to try to preserve continuity and familiarity for her by continuing with machine milking.
2) It was like milk insurance. Since Leslie was used to the machine, and our own learning curve was a bit steep, we decided the machine milker would serve as insurance to keep the milk flowing. We didn’t want to invest a few hundred dollars in a goat, only to have her dry up or get mastitis because we were too slow in learning how to hand milk effectively.
The machine milker also protected against bucket spillage, since the tubes direct the milk straight into a mason jar. Now we are able to keep more milk from each session- something that’s well worth it when you have a kicker.
3) It’s faster. Normally I don’t necessarily value speed for its own sake. But when I have one of the kids with me in the barn, or when I’ve got to get back to the kitchen to preserve some food, or when we’ve got to get on the road early in the morning, faster is better.
4) It frees my hands. You may have seen in previous posts how Tim would have to hold Leslie’s legs for me when she got fussy while hand-milking. I just didn’t have the reflexes or abilities to guard the milk bucket, stop the kicking, and continue milking at the same time. Perhaps this was our goat’s personality; perhaps it was our mutual lack of hand-milking experience. Regardless of the cause, the machine allows us to milk solo without needing extra hands around to help.
5) It’s more goat-sitter friendly. When you don’t have people around who have their own milk goats, it’s much easier to teach sitters to put tubes on the goat’s teats and press a button than it is to teach hand-milking if they’ve never done it before.
6) It’s cleaner. There’s less milk squirting on my shirt and outside of the bucket. There’s rarely hair and dirt in the milk to filter out. There’s no spillage since the milk goes straight down the tubes into a mason jar. I don’t mind dirt at all, but it does help with the sanitation factor and the clean-up time.
After having our machine milker for well over a month, I am glad that we made the investment. While it’s not nearly as romantic or satisfying as milking a goat by hand, it does the job well and makes life a little easier for us. I’d like to think that when my kids are a little older, I’ll switch back to hand milking, just because I enjoy the old-worldiness of it. And I may. But for now- a machine it is!
(UPDATE: I actually tried milking by hand again for a few days after drafting this post. It wasn’t nearly so rough as when we first bought the goat, and I think we could both get used to it again. But I’m still going to stick with the machine for now for the reasons listed above.)
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