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Lets talk supplies

If you're considering a herdshare program, I'm going to work off of the assumption that you already know how to milk your animals.  Our goal here is to perform a checkup on how sterile your procedures are, from the context of what supplies and chemicals you will use in your daily routine.  This will include your pre- and post-teat dips, cleaning your milk buckets and machine, and lastly container sanitation.

 

Milking

Depending on the time of year and number of animals in milk, I will hand or machine milk.  I find that for my setup, it is more efficient to hand milk if I have 6 or less goats in milk.  The prep and cleanup of a machine milker is just not worth the extra time.

Whether you are hand or machine milking, you need the following:

  1. Clippers with a 30 or 40 blade.  That udder needs to be clean, and free of trace dirt and manure, which is easier with a hairless udder.  Clip both the fore and rear udder.  Most farmers also clip hair on the belly in front of the foreudder. Here's a YouTube video with a demonstration on a cow udder.

  2. Strip cup - send the first few streams of milk here, looking for signs of mastitis (stringy or clumps in the milk)

  3. Teat dips - I use Valiant as a pre-dip and a 1% iodine post milking dip, using non-return cups. Be cautious if you feel strongly about using household soaps and/or essential oils for teat dips - they are sometimes not enough to prevent mastitis, and consider that you are not just feeding your household anymore.

  4. CMT test.  Check the milk from each quarter/half of each animal weekly, especially if you are dam raising kids or calves.

  5. Milk can for transport from the parlor to your bottling setup.  It should be stainless steel with no seams.  There are lots of different sizes here - I like the 10 qt and 5 qt models for my setup, but your setup may require larger cans.  There are also some (pricy) new models out there with a nozzle at the bottom for filling jars.  

  6. Gloves - I prefer nitrile.  A dirty glove is cleaner than a clean hand.  

  7. Paper towels and/or rags - in the parlor and the bottling facility.  

  8. A spray bottle with bleach water.  Wipe your surfaces before and/or after milking and bottling.

Hand Milking?

  1. You need a stainless steel bucket with NO SEAMS - they are locations for bacteria to hide and build a biofilm.  A lid is useful too, especially between animals.  For goats, I prefer this 5-quart bucket, but for cows, larger buckets may be better.

  2. Strainer with filters - large v. small, depending on your volume

and whether you strain in the milking parlor into your milk can, or

directly into the jars. Stick with no-seam metal, and do not reuse

your filters - disposable is the only way to go here!

Machine Milking?

  1. Replace your tubing, Ys, and inflation liners every year.

  2. You could use a strainer with filters (see above), or reduce your number of steps with an in-line filter, again with disposable filters.  Do not use the stainless steel filters for feeding other families.

  3. Machine cleaning supplies.  Define pre-milking and post-milking protocols (mine are available in Herdshare School) that include a bleach sanitizing step pre-milking, and following milking, a lukewarm rinse, a hot (>145 degrees) non-foaming detergent cycle, and a lukewarm acid rinse.  Test your cleaning procedures by sending milk out for testing periodically.

 

Bottling and Cleaning up

  1. Choose your jars.  I used the gorgeous traditional glass milk jars for 2 years, but they are difficult to clean and sanitize due to the narrow neck, especially if the customer does not immediately wash them out.  I now use 1/2 half gallon mason jars with plastic lids and silicon liners to seal the jar and prevent leakage.  I have also considered going to plastic - even though I would prefer to tread lightly on the earth, the convenience of not having to clean jars and being sure that I'm putting my milk into a sterile vessel is compelling.  If you buy mason jars, they are much cheaper through your local hardware store or Tractor Supply than purchasing online and paying shipping.  I contacted my locally owned hardware store and bulk ordered 20 cases of 6 jars each, which has worked well for me.

  2. Labels - I used Avery labels for a while, and printed on my home printer, and then switched to vinyl sticker labels from StickerMule.

  3. Brushes to clean your jars and milk cans. Stick with plastic here - no wood or other porous substances, and replace at least every 6 months.

  4. A foaming dairy soap.  A little goes a long way here!

  5. Bleach - normal strength (not concentrated), and without additives.  Only buy what you need within the next month or so - bleach goes bad (converts into salt water) relatively quickly.  From what I can tell, the Chlorox and WalMart brands are the only approved brands for Grade A use.

Milk storage and delivery

  1. Consider how you will cool your milk quickly.  This could involve an ice bath in a cooler, or placing the milk jars into a freezer for 40 minutes or so.  Your goal is to get below 40 degrees within 2 hours of milking.  Check your procedure by monitoring temperature on a test jar.

  2. Storing your milk for pickup usually involves a fridge.  Craigslist specials are great here, but also consider purchasing a temperature monitor with alarm.

  3. Transporting your milk to drop sites?  Coolers with ice blocks and ice sheets on top (I abolutely LOVE these!) should keep your product cold.  Again, test your setup to ensure that the milk stays below 38 degrees.

Do you have questions about your situation?  Contact me and I'll be happy to talk to you about your farm and milking practices.

 

Download our free guide here, and consider joining Herdshare School, where we walk you through all of the steps to starting a herdshare program, and you’ll join a community of other farmers doing the same.