Goat milking machines: a review

So now that I have two nursing mothers, I’m on the hunt for a decent home dairy goat milking machine. I have been doing research for weeks now off and on, and even have our local librarian helping out with the research (thanks Linda!) into how to milk pygmy goats in particular. If you’ve never seen a pygmy goat teat, imagine milking into a shot glass and you’ll have the proportion about right!

When I’ve been given directions by people ‘in the know’ about milking there is always a whole hand involved, “It’s all in the forearm” they tell me. Of course, none of these theoretical lessons have been with my goats in situ and when I have said how big the teats are their faces have fallen, “Picture milking into a shot glass,” I say as I bring my two hands up and gesture with my index finger and thumb. They look somewhat disbelievingly at me and then they laugh, “Ah, so more a finger action then!”

That is the sum total of Shiraz's teat between my forefinger and thumb!

That is the sum total of Shiraz's teat between my forefinger and thumb!

My friend the librarian has confirmed my suspicions–that anyone who keeps pygmies for milking uses a machine. Trying to milk those little teats, even if successful, will be killer on the fingers. I already have some problems in my index finger thanks to too many years on the computer with a scrolling mouse.

I have found the following options for the home goat dairy:

Hamby Dairy Supply: 1 Goat NuPlus Style Milker (also comes with 2 goat option)

Model 14L stainless steel bucket. Small and lightweight. Holds 14 litres (3 1/2 gallon) weighs only 8 pounds empty

Features our Lightweight small quiet portable vacuum supply Includes a stainless steel overflow vacuum tank. Efficient Oil – less Electric Motor runs on 110 volt household current. Some assembly required.

Stainless Steel Goat Milking Bucket Assembly comes with stainless steel lid, 3.5 gallon stainless steel milking bucket, Goat Claws, Interpuls Long Life pulsator, adapter and all necessary tubes and hoses to milk one goat. 1 year warranty.

Our milking machines come with everything you need to milk and a cleaning kit that includes 30 day supply of Pfanzite powder dairy detergent and 3 dairy brushes Pfanzite dairy detergent and brushes Milk Check Teat Wipes Teat Dip, dip cup, strip cup and more.

Caprine Supply: System 1 Vacuum Source

Our improved System One vacuum source will now milk one or two goats at a time. It is lightweight, durable, and draws only 5.8 amps — small enough for household wiring. It has a powerful 1/2 hp motor, oil-less pump, and on-off switch, so you can keep it plugged in. Comes with wheels and handle. In stock and shippable. Our System One vacuum system can be used with any of our bucket assemblies: one goat, two goat, or poly.

Hoegger Goat Supply: Delux Milking System

This milking system will milk one goat. Our State of the Art electric milking system is first quality, field tested and proven with over 40 years of personal goat-milking experience built into the design. NOT a modified cow machine, but a true Goat Milking Machine with exclusive features not found in any other equipment. Hardly any more clean up than hand milking. Thanks to the belly-pail design NO MILK LINES TO CLEAN.

Parts Dept Supply


10″ Air Tires, 3/4HP or 1.5 HP 110V Motor, Conde Brand Vacuum Pump, Balance Tank/Moisture Trap, Glycerin Filled Gauge, Shipped Fully assembled, Oil Catching Muffler, Solid Brass Regulator Valve, Made in the USA

I have been looking for reviews of the options out there and found precious few. I did find one by Steve Shore. In this article he states:

I bought one from one of the supply houses that was “designed just for goats.”

Reading ‘between the lines’ I take Shore to be saying that the Hoegger unit was the one he sent back (they are the only suppliers to advertise ‘a true Goat Milking Machine’). He goes on to say why he was unimpressed with the product:

It was usable but the small milk bucket wasn’t quite big enough when used on my most productive doe, The foam from the milk would be sucked into the small vacuum tank and the milk bucket was so light that it tipped over easily. Then after using if for less that a month, the electric pulsator quit. I packed it up and sent it back.

It was the Hoegger unit that I was most attracted to simply because of the advertisment of ‘NO MILK LINES TO CLEAN’. After all, how much more perfect could the job of milking get if you don’t have to clean the milk lines?

However, after reading this review, I decided against that particular model and instead found myself concentrating on the similarities and differences between the Parts Dept,  Caprine Supply, and the Hamby Dairy Supply systems. Now all I had to do was decide between them. They had very similar specs and pricing, so that didn’t narrow the field much.

What I did find was that the Parts Dept (being true to its name) and Caprine Supply both required that the consumer make several decisions: what size bucket, which milk lines you wanted, and so on. While this might suit some people, I just wanted to click a button and have the machine show up at my place within a few weeks. I didn’t want to have to decide on the size of this or that. Though, the Parts Dept model did hold my attention for quite some time because it was almost exactly like the Hamby model and it was made in the USA, and I like to ‘shop local’ whenever possible!

The final decision came down to design. The Hamby model and the Parts Dept models both came on easy to move trolleys, but the Hamby model was sleek enough to fit the actual milking pale on the trolley whereas the Parts Dept model would leave you to lug the milk pale around.

In the end, the Hamby 1 Goat NuPlus Milker won my vote because:

  1. It is a New Zealand dairy design and I know Kiwis do dairy very well;
  2. I really like the all-in-one-unit complete with cart;
  3. It was the only machine that mentioned a warranty;
  4. and, well, I’m married to a Kiwi…

I will keep you posted as to how it looks when it gets here and how well it functions when I actually start using it!

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33 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Goats, Milk preservation techniques, milking goats, Product reviews

33 responses to “Goat milking machines: a review

  1. Tony Knight (Lovespoon)

    Congratulations on purchasing your new milking machine- it will certainly save you time in milking! We built milking stands for our girls- we feed them whilst we milk them- they seem more contented that way. I can send you some design plans if you like. But, they will need to be scaled down for your pigmy goats of course! Having seen your poultry barn you will have no trouble building a milking stand!

    The important thing with the machine is the pulsator, which simulates the sucking action of the kid. It is different for cows to goats. I trust you will be sent the one suitable for goats.

    We had instructions on how to use the milking machine, but not the clusters..when the first goat was on the stand, it all went ok until we tried to remove the clusters- we could not stop the vacuum pressure- in desperation we turned off the machine….eventually the pressure dropped enough to remove the clusters!

    Another important point is the vacuum pressure- too high and it can damage the udder and cause mastitis. We check it every time before milking just in case the pressure changes.

    When it comes to cleaning, there is the ‘switch’ on the cluster that moves vertically; one way for cleaning, one for milking. In washing mode, there is permanent suction through the top of the cluster where the milk (or water/detergent mix when cleaning) is sucked into the tube. In milking mode, you will feel the pressure ‘pulse’ simulating the suck of the kid.

    Learning the hard way..suggest you try it on the palm of your hand first to check that the above mentioned ‘switch’ is in the correct position and that you are able to stop the vacuum pressure in order to get the cluster to release when the milkflow stops. That way, the first time you use the machine, you will be more relaxed ergo so will your goats.

    Apologies if Jo has already been through this with you..

    • My dear hubby has made me a stanchion! We’ll see how it works. Neither of us are experts at this after all. Actually, I should have taken ‘before’ pictures. It was as if he thought we were going to be milking giraffes! Eh-hem, but he did some ‘adjustments’ and although I have not yet tried the platform, it certainly looks more suitable, in size if nothing else; and isn’t ‘that’ what truly matters!

      Ohhhh, I’m bad.

      cheers,

      HDR

    • ann

      Hi there,
      I just purchased the surge cow/goat milker, it is a 5/5 gallon one which I do not really need for the two goats, but we received no info on it at all, I am trying to find a manual, dad was going to build me the vaccuum but I am not even sure of the size we need, are you able to send me some info on what we need? Actually any tips at all would be great, I have a hobby farm/special care home, and I have to take the crew away for special olympic games and am really worried about how I am going to manage to get them milked, I have a friend that will do it if we can sort out the milker.
      It would have paid to have much more research first. It is all rebuilt, and I got it off of ebay.
      many thanks if you can help me. I am in NB Canada.
      thanks,
      ann

      • Hello Ann,

        I would suggest contacting the Hamby Dairy Supply with your question. Also, try searching the wed for a solution. I did come across a series of ‘self made’ gizmos that people seemed happy with. You might find a good solution that you can craft that way.

        Sorry I can’t be of more help than that but I’m new to the goat milking myself!

        Does anyone else have suggestions for Ann?

        cheers,

        HDR

  2. LittleFfarm Dairy

    The only reason I’d have gone for the other machine is that it can be used to milk two goats simultaneously. We’ve found this an absolute boon; plus it retains its secondhand value far better than a single model as everyone wants to ‘upsize’ rather than downsize! Ours is made from stainless steel rather than hot-dipped galvanised metal which means it is more durable & able to withstand knocks far better – something to look out for.

    BUT it’s a real bonus to be able to move the entire thing around as a portable unit (ours is an all-in-one) & as you say this one you’ve ordered comes complete with everything you need. I only hope it’s not too big for your Pygmies (it shouldn’t be) but watch the clusters don’t ride too far up the udder, which will be uncomforable for the poor girls. Might be worth shifting to sheep clusters if it becomes a problem. And do check your pulsator setting with each use; too high & again, it could lead to mastitis problems or a high SCC. Worth getting a CMT Kit (California Milk Test) so that you can check for subclinical mastits anyway; always helpful to catch it quick & nip it in the bud!

    If you’re milking the ladies, does this mean you’re taking the kids off their mums, & bottle-feeding them?

    Incidentally I don’t know why people have told you that goat milking is “all in the forearm”. It’s NOT like milking a cow; & no real ‘arm action’ is required. It is ALL in the fingers: closing the top of the teat (nearest the udder) between forefinger & thumb; & then gently closing the other fingers around the rest of the teat to move the milk downwards. There’s no ‘squeeze & pull’ action, it should be incredibly gentle, more like playing a musical instrument. We do have some first-kidders with very small teats & they are a pain to hand-milk initially, but you quickly get used to it. Even Shiraz’s tiny teats could be successfully milked out by hand; & at least as she’s not a Dairy breed you wouldn’t be there all day….! Mind you, a machine is a Godsend; I wouldn’t part with ours for the world.

    • I can always add a second set of suction thingys later; this machine allows for that. Also, this company said to advise if you have miniatures when you place the order so they can send the right size cluster (suction thingy?) I thought I would start with one and grow as I get better and get more goats!

      cheers,

      HDR

      PS. I think you misread the ad, the one I ordered is stainless steel. Good of you to point out the difference though as I would not have known or thought of it; just got lucky!

  3. HDR, looking forward to your posts when your machine arrives 🙂

    Jo, handmilking a cow correctly is the same as you describe. Pulling is a no-no, but many people do it that way, unfortunately… .

    • kim1708

      For those people who “pull”, they should be pulled so they can know how it feels! With goats, I NEVER pull, in fact, I push up when I milk, or I just milk in place. For me, I feel there is NO reason to pull down on the teats. It’s a HUGE no-no in my opinion, and those people should be educated. I’d ask why they pull, ask them if they’d want to be pulled and educate them on the proper milking technique lol. Anyone who is capable of milking, should be capable of milking without pulling, on goats and cows. Regardless the size of teat. If they are as small as HDR’s does, it should be a thumb and a finger or two job. And with the longer teats, your whole hands. I personally prefer does with teats that you can use all your fingers on. I bet many people feel that way too though! lol, I guess it doesn’t matter the teat size though, when you’ve got a milk machine! lol. BTW, do cows ever have short teats?

      • Thanks Kim!

        I’m hoping the size ‘doesn’t matter’ once I get the machine. As for the cow question, I’m sure Matron of Husbandry will answer that for us. She is our cow ‘expert/specialist’!

        cheers,

        HDR

  4. LittleFfarm Dairy

    Hi Throwback at Trapper Creek (AKA MOH??)

    I used to milk a ‘house cow’ as a child (dear old Ruby, what a gal) & as you say, the technique I was taught, was NEVER, EVER to pull. I thoroughly agree with Kim – treat those teats as if they were your own (!) – & your goat/cow/sheep/buffalo or whatever, will appreciate it.

    Gentleness & courtesy go a long way in this life….the old adage “treat others as you would like to be treated, yourself” goes a long way; regardless of whether human or animal.

    I stumbled across an horrific article on YouTube the other night, about the treatment of circus animals; it was truly shocking & distressing. Ignorance & carelessness resulting in bullying & torture of the animals, just to make them perform degrading tricks for our “pleasure” (it was no wonder an elephant turned on her handler, & killed him). We call ourselves civilised yet pay to watch this kind of ‘entertainment’. I think the only ‘circus’ I’d pay to see these days, is Cirque do Soleil; talented men & women with a real sense of the magic of theatre. I think one of the most disgusting things was the final piece of footage where a dead tiger was dragged out of her pathetically small, bare cage. Her poor, emaciated body was then skinned & her head hacked off; right in front of the line of cages where all the other tigers were housed, in their full sight, sound & smell. It was revolting & the ultimate degradation for a beautiful, noble animal whose life should have been spent, wild & free, in the jungle.

    Anyway, I digress; Tony’s comment brought back so many memories, I was just grateful that the ‘test pilot’ in question on the milkstand that day, was the very patient Lady Woodie; she just stood chewing the cud, mildly amused, as our stress levels rocketed through the roof as we desperately tried everything we could think of to unhand her from the ‘demon machine’…..unfortunately the instructions we received were written in Italian; & whilst our ‘military’ Italian was a bit rusty our ‘agricultural’ Italian was virtually non-existent. Nothing quite like “learning on the hoof,” I can tell you! but Tony’s absolutely right about testing everything on yourself before putting it on your goats, it’ll give you a lot more confidence.

    Incidentally regarding construction of the machine, it was the frame & not the milking bucket I was referring to; we went for the heavy-duty food-grade clear version of the bucket as in fifteen years the company had never needed to replace one for a customer; & at least with a clear bucket you can see how much milk is in there without having to worry about it overfilling (plus the stainless steel bucket was an extra £115 – ouch). However with only two Pygmies to worry about, that shouldn’t be a problem for you – it’s a bit more of a guessing-game headache when you’ve got a fair few, as we have! It sounds like a really good system you’ve ordered, there (like you say the Kiwis know what they’re doing!) – especially as it is so adaptable; you’ll really appreciate that flexibility further down the line.

    Only thing I would say before you actually try the machine on the girls: get them used to enjoying their meals on the milkstand, without any interference (& check there’s no way they can get out of the head yoke – you’ll be amazed at the tiny gaps they can slip out of when anywhere else on the farm they’d tell you they were completely stuck!).

    Then try gently handmilking them; then introduce the machine by having it just switched on in the same building whilst they’re on the stand, gradually moving it closer & once they’re comfortable with it all, handmilking whilst it is switched on before actually applying the cluster. This slow-but-steady progress should only take a few days; & is well worth the effort to minimise your goats’ stress levels.

    And after several days of milking those tiny teats by hand, you sure will be grateful for your new machine….!!

  5. Pingback: Home dairy goat milking machines | All Things Goat

  6. Chris Gallamore

    Hi there,

    Do you have an update for us? How is the milker working out?

  7. Has anyone tried a human milking machine on the pygmy goats? I would think that with very little modification on the lenght of the teat
    aparatist. It would work. Just a thought.

    • Karla Schaerer

      I may try that while I’m deciding what to buy. Use a catheter tipped syringe of the size you need for your girls. Just pull out the stopper and adjust the tubing diameter if need be. TSC and most plumbing stores have food grade clear plastic tubing. I used a break line bleeding gun attached to a piece of tubing that went to a hose barb in the lid of a gallon jug. There is a second hose barb in the lid. The tubing from that goes to the teat cup (catheter tip syringe). Just keep the pressure at 10 or less.

  8. lindercroft

    I milk my Nigerian Dwarf by hand and I had a pygmy I milked also. The teats do grow a bit bigger in time than what you showed in the picture. Once you figure it out, it isn’t hard at all.

    • lindercroft

      ah, I forgot to subscribe… done now!

    • You know, I thought they would get bigger with the kids suckling and their bags being full but they haven’t!

      • lindercroft

        Ah! Did you continue to milk by hand? The hand milking is what I believe helps make the teats grow a bit. The kids don’t help much in that respect. If you watch how a kid nurses, mom, never lets them nurse but for a few seconds and moves away. When we milk her, she has to let us pull on and squeeze her teat for several minutes. LOL Here is a picture of my does teat It only spanned two figures if I was lucky! Now they span three. Some dwarf does have small teats, but not all of them do. Some have teats almost as big as full sized goats!

        Did you get your milking machine?

  9. Ryorkies

    No I never got a machine. I have been debating on breeding the doe.
    Her milking experience was not pleasant. I have spent months gaining
    her trust. She finally comes up to me wanting treats. But does not like
    to be petted. So I wonder if she will even let me milk her. I am sure I
    could milk her teats. They are at least 2 fingers long. She had kids last spring. Maybe milking would get her to trust me more. Letting her kid/kids
    nurse at the same time. to let the milk down. I do not need lots of milk. Any ideas?

    • lindercroft

      Oh you got a doe that has not been socialize to humans. That’s to bad. You may have your hands full. Some goats will come around but many won’t. My oldest doe was not friendly when I got her at 3 months. I was a bit surprised that she allowed me to milk her after her kids were born, it usually doesn’t go that way at all! When she was younger she was down right afraid of me. I finely just started grabbing her collar and making her let me pet and make over her. All the other suggestion I read didn’t help a bit, she wouldn’t even take treats from me, no matter how tasty! But even so it took months before she actually wouldn’t run away from me when I got close. She is 3 years old now and is plenty friendly, but not overly so. The other goats I had never would warm up to me. The only one I have of the original is the doe I just described.

      I think if it were me, I would breed her and keep her doe kids but find a home for her. If you try that, be sure to mess with the kids at every opportunity! Human socialization is really important if we want nice friendly goats… don’t get me wrong dam raised goats can be just as friendly as bottle babies. And for my way of thinking, dam raised is healthier for the kids.

      • ryorkies

        I thought of doing that. And keeping a doe. I would probably still
        keep Lucy. No one ever took any time with her. She was force milked
        as a yearling. No gentleness. I would hate to pawn her off on someone else. And then they would do the same pass her on to someone else. When I got her I had to have her drag a rope to catch her. I have a couple of packgoats. And I walk them daily
        off leash. She started tagging along. And after all summer of hiking and treats and the other two come running. Lucy is coming to me when I call her name. Out on the walks she will let me scratch her neck and shoulder.
        Should my next step be make her let me groom her? I thought if I breed
        her I could use the kids for primers. Only let them suckle when I let them in the stanchion. And maybe get in some milking of my own at the same time. Just a thought. She will never be cuddly. But I love her blue eyes. Thanks for listening

        • Fatty-Fat, Malcolm, and Shiraz all love being groomed. In fact, Fatty and Shiraz will actually jockey for position of first place when I get the combs out. You may want to try tying her and then slowly working on brushing her. They seem to really love getting brushed between their front legs on their chest. Start there if you can, little bits at a time to get her used to it. Of course, the other place they love is at the base of their backs just above their tails, over their hips. If you do decide to breed her (which also may help her come around), make sure you work on the imprint training immediately and faithfully so her kids don’t end up like her.

          No worries. I love hearing about other people’s ‘goat-capades’!

          Let me know how you go with Lucy!

          Kristeva

        • lindercroft

          Oh I forgot about that! Yes! Goats LOVE being brushed, or at least mine does. To them it’s like having a custom scratching post! I had a young buck I had gotten to service my doe. I remember just barely being let to touch him with the brush. He couldn’t stand the suspense when I would brush the others and would come over, but I was only allowed to brush a tiny spot away from his head and I had to stretch my arm out to do that. Eventually I was allowed to brush his back. He did finally get so he trusted me but nobody else. Today I would never get an unsocialized goat. Although I understand completely about you wanting to keep your blue eyed doe. It will all be worth it once she trusts you. I just love my Nigerian Dwarf goats!

        • lindercroft

          Another idea for socializing the kids is what I do. My goats are primarily for milking. At two weeks I separate the kids at night, but always keep them in a pen next to mom. In the morning I milk mom and then let the kids back with mom to nurse and learn about being goats. The separation helps the kids to get to know you because you can handle them every evening and every morning and they will come to the gate for you to let them out every morning. The separation doesn’t harm them any at all. At two weeks, the kids basically don’t nurse at night anyway. In this way the kids are dam raised, but you get to keep the morning milk. It also teach the doe that she gets milked every morning. The kids get a thorough socialization right from the beginning. I play with the kids at those times, petting them and loving up on them. Mom doesn’t get the chance to teach them to stay away from me. The doe adjusts and will call her kids to her when she knows you are going to lock them away. She wants to make sure they have a full belly before you get there. If she doesn’t do that (she will though once she gets used to the routine) you would want to let the kids nurse before you put them up at night. At first the doe will hold her milk back, but eventually will only hold a little back for the kids. Once the kids are weaned at 8 weeks (or what ever age you wean) they go off to new homes and all the milk is yours. Although I let my doe nurse the doelings I keep until she weans them. Anyways, I though I would pass that idea on.

    • I had one goat that just would not ever warm to me despite the fact that all the others, including her brother who came to the farm the same time she did. I ended up shooting her and eating her. I reasoned that, because she didn’t get pregnant despite having had sufficient time (and visual confirmation of covering) with the buck, and even if she did get pregnant the following year, I didn’t want her teaching her kids to be standoffish with me. So, she had to go. The rest of my goats are all very warm and cuddly. I’ve worked at it to be sure, but there is always personality factors with the goats. Some just don’t like humans!

      You may want to check out my goat breeding pages where I talk about how I work with the kids (imprint training) to help them bond with humans (me in particular) when they are first born.

      Good luck with it!

      Kristeva

    • Karla Schaerer

      Try putting her on a stanchion. It may be traumatic for both of you, at first. Feed her while she’s up there, and pet her and talk to her. I, initially, tied my does’ hind feet down to the back of the stanchion until they got used to it. They did not fight. They were never injured, and I think that helped them know that this was not a “bad” thing. I used a soft piece of nylon rope with a slip knot. Didn’t have to do it very long. Sometimes, I would pull dandelion weeds, plantain and lamb’s quarter and have it in a bucket beside the stanchion for an extra special treat. It was like giving a dog a marrow bone!

  10. HAS ANYONE TRYED THE CAPRALITE GOAT MILKING MACHINE?

  11. I agree learning to milk goats with small teats was really rough. Had me in tears a few times! However i have now been milking by hand for 7 months now. I can actuall milk with both hands too with little fear of getting a hoof in the pail. I soupy to stick with it and it will get so much easier!!

  12. Anthony

    How can anyone imagine what the heck your doing.No pictures,what is a backwards 19th century company doing in buisness.

  13. I am into researching and choosing a milk machine. Could you tell me how you like the milk machine you chose and anything you do not like about it?
    Thank you.

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