Over twenty five years ago Mike and I exchanged wedding vows:
- For richer or poorer.
- In sickness and in health.
- Hiking mountains or milking goats.
Goats and Not Goats
We arrived at our latest wwoofing gig a week ago. We are working at a goat farm in Northern Florida.
It’s a farm that primarily focuses on:
But the stars of this farm-show are the goats.
The farm is known for its goat milk, goat cheeses, and goat yogurt (all labeled and sold for animal consumption only, per FL law). It also sells goat milk soaps, goat milk lotions, and other goat milk products.
Inside or Out?
The WWOOFers are separated into “outside” and “inside” crews each week. Miranda started her week with the outside team. She’s written about her experiences so far.
I was assigned to the inside team. This crew is responsible for milking goats, making yogurt and cheeses, cleaning and separating eggs, making and packaging soaps, and more.
Since the products sold by the farm revolve around goat milk, I’ll walk you through that process.
Line Em Up!
The milking goats are lined up at the gate by 7:00am.
We can milk 8 goats each session. We allow 8 goats through the first gate.
Brush Them Down
Here we brush them, getting all of the dirt and debris off their coats.
When the goats are all brushed they are released down a fenced “chute” leading into the dairy barn.
To Your Stations!
Once inside, the goats pick a milking station. That may sound simple, but some days…not so much.
You know how it can throw off a church or school room if you “take somone’s seat?” This morning Koala chose a different station than usual. The rest of the goats had to meander around for a bit before finding new spots.
The goats are anxious to get set up at a milking station because they know food is coming.
We feed them a scoop of grain, alfalfa, and manna. While two of us feed the goats, another crew member sprays the goats’ udders and teats.
When everyone is munching away, we wipe the udders and teats to make sure they are clean.
The next step is called “stripping.” We use a metal cup and milk the first bits of milk from each goat. This is to remove any bacteria or calcium plugs that may be in the teat.
After the stripping, we turn on the milk machine. It can handle 4 goats at a time. Some of these girls can produce 1/2 - 1 gallon of milk each morning - so the machine makes easy work of what would take a long time to do by hand.
When the machine has extracted most of the milk, we remove the milking cluster and finish the process by hand milking.
When we finish milking a goat, her teats are dipped in a solution to help keep them healthy.
We then move the machine to the other side of the room and start the process over on the goats remaining in this batch.
Process the Milk
When this batch of goats is milked, a WWOOFer takes the milk canisters into the dairy kitchen and processes the collected milk.
We release the goats and they meander back to their pen.
With the dairy now empty we wipe down the milking stations.
Once Again, With Feeling
Once the empty canisters are back in the milking machine, we move the next batch of goats into the brushing area and repeat the process.
Once we’ve milked the second batch of goats and send them back outdoors, we clean the milking area again. We wipe down each station, sweep the floors, and generally get things ready for the next day.