Beginners Guide to Milking Livestock
If you are reading this blog, I, Matthew Davies, would assume you are probably one of the more advanced homesteaders out there. Milking is not something that new homesteaders generally think about, not only because it is a task typically reserved for more experienced homesteaders, but because when you begin your journey to living off the grid, you will not likely be starting with a mature heard. There are multiple reasons for this, but suffice it to say the cost of adult animals is pretty high.
That being said, this article is going to help you prepare for milking an animal for the first time. It is not as complicated as you may think. Sit back, relax, and absorb the information I am about to give you.
Find A Quiet Place
If there were one thing that I would recommend above all other strategies, it would be to find a nice quiet place to milk. Not only will this help you to concentrate, but it will also allow the animal to remain calm as you attempt to learn the process.
If someone you know will be milking in the future, I suggest you bring them along when you try for the first time. This will not only give them the chance to see how it is done, but it will also allow them to see the mistakes you make, so they don’t repeat them. That is not to say that you are going to make mistakes, but chances are you will. After all, you have never milked an animal before. Watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts like this one cannot possibly prepare you for the real thing. They will give you a general idea of what to expect, but the only way to master this task is to put that knowledge to practice.
Have Your Supplies Ready
Milking your animal involves more than having you sitting on a stool with your bucket ready to receive the milk. When you are first starting, it will behoove you to make a mental or paper checklist so that you don’t forget anything. Below, you will find a few of the items you may need to have with you when you set out to milk your animal. Remember, this is not only for the first time but every time you milk your animal.
- Halter or lead – This will be used to get your animal to the place you are going to do your milking. Remember to leave the animal tied up for the entire time you are milking. They tend to want to wander off. If this happens at the wrong time, you could wind up hurting the animal, or the animal could end up hurting you.
- Disinfectant – You will need to apply this to the teats before you start milking. This will ensure that any germs or parasites are dealt with and do not make it into the collecting bucket. Additionally, you will want to make sure your bucket is clean as well. This should have been prepped ahead of time.
- Udder Balm – This will be used to treat any sores on the teats. Additionally, it will ensure that lesions never form in the first place. If you get milk from your livestock that also has a litter, the offspring may have caused the injury before you got to the animal. If you find sores on your milking animal, treat the wounds, and then isolate the animal.
- Towels – You will use towels to clean up any spillage or generally to wipe down surfaces. One or two should be more than enough.
Comfort is not only for your benefit but for the benefit of the animal as well. If you are uncomfortable, you will do things that will make the animal. This can lead to a poor experience for the animal. Consequently, the animal will try to get away and could end up hurting you in the process.
I like to sit right on my milk stand. Some people want to sit on a small stool next to their stand. It doesn’t matter how you like to do it so long as you are comfortable. Remember, this is not something that takes a long time, but it isn’t something that is necessarily fast either.
As with anything, you want to be fully prepared for whatever life throws at you. Perhaps you set out to only milk one of your animals, but an opportunity arises that allows you to milk two animals. Likewise, you might think that you will only get one bucket of milk out of the animal, and they are prepared to give you two or more buckets. Should you have to stop to gather additional supplies, you could spook the animal. This is something you never want to do. Good preparation will enhance your experience, increasing the likelihood that you will do it again in the future.
As the saying goes, “patience is a virtue.” More valid words have never been “uddered” when it comes to milking your livestock – especially for first-timers. Remember that milking is an art form. The first few times you do it, you will find it a bit clunky. Even when you’re doing everything right, it can feel awkward but with time, the process will become more familiar. Breathe, relax, and take your time. You will get through this, and you will have the best milk that you have ever tasted in your life.
I, Matthew Davies, have been milking my livestock for over ten years now. I hope that the knowledge that I have imparted on you will allow you to get through your first experience. Remember, when it comes to milking your animals, you need to make sure that you have enough time to do it properly, are in a nice quiet place, and have over-compensated for the number of supplies you are going to need. Follow those simple rules, and you will become an excellent milker for your homestead and your family.