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Milking dairy goats

This is an excerpt of Dairy Goat and Sheep Operations in the Southeast Production Guide, ANR-2457.

Prevention and Treatment of Disease


Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland (udder). The most common infectious causes of mastitis in goats and sheep are Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus caprae, Streptococcus agalactiae, Streptococcus uberi, Streptococcus dysgalactia, Mycoplasma capricolum, Mycoplasma agalactiae, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, clostridium species, and caprine arthritis- encephalitis virus (CAEV).

Mastitis can result from yeast infection and occasionally from other infectious organisms. The infectious agent enters through the milk canal and multiplies. Some microorganisms release toxins. The mammary tissue becomes inflamed as a result of these infections and toxins.

In the acute form of mastitis, the animal often has a fever above 105 degrees F and an accelerated pulse, lethargy, and poor appetite. The mammary gland becomes hard, swollen, red, hot, and sensitive to touch. Milk secretions are watery and yellow, with flakes and clotting that contain blood and/or pus.

The chronic form of mastitis occurs as a persistent and incurable infection. The udder may have hard lumps as a result of bacteria forming colonies, and lack of milk production may occur.

With the subclinical form of mastitis, there are no visible signs to indicate the presence of mastitis. The subclinical form can eventually develop into the chronic clinical form of mastitis.

Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and herd history, microbiological milk culture, somatic cell count (SCC), or an enzyme- linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).

Treatment should be based on the results of microbiological milk culture and your veterinarian’s recommendations. Always adhere to milk withdrawal periods following treatment.

Prevention and control measures include the following:

  • Improve hygiene of the barn, milking practices, and equipment used for milking.
  • Provide a clean environment with minimal stress for the dairy herd. Dairy goats should be dehorned to avoid accidents and trauma to mammary glands.
  • Disinfect kidding and lambing pens following the daily removal of bedding.
  • Prevent foot rot and foot scald, since foot infection has been linked to mastitis.
  • Treat wounds and drain abscesses properly; particularly watch for caseous lymphadenitis abscess in the udder.
  • Follow proper milking protocol (see “Milking Protocol”).
  • Cull chronically infected females from the herd.
  • Purchase animals from a known source.
  • Stop milking the affected half to dry off a mammary gland. The lack of mechanical stimulation will cause the half to dry off. This procedure helps to reduce treatment costs and increase the efficacy of the drugs used for treatment.
  • Isolate infected females from the herd for treatment to prevent transmission to other animals.
  • Watch for does/ewes that have aborted. Some of the same microorganisms that cause abortion can cause mastitis.

Judicious Use of Antibiotics

Antibiotics are medications used to treat bacterial infections. A top priority of food animal producers is to maintain the health and well-being of their animals. Treating sick animals appropriately with antibiotics promotes animal and human health and well-being.

Antibiotics are safe to use in dairy goats and sheep if they are used properly. Antibiotics go through a stringent FDA approval process for safety and efficacy. By law, no meat or milk products sold in the United States are allowed to contain antibiotic residues that violate FDA standards.

One way to avoid drug residues in food animal products is to strictly adhere to meat and milk withdrawal times. A withdrawal time is the minimum number of days required between the last antibiotic treatment and the day that meat or milk from the treated animal can enter the human food supply.

Withdrawal times ensure that antibiotic residues are no longer present when meat or milk products from that animal enter the food supply. Everyone that administers antibiotics to animals is required by law to adhere to all withdrawal periods.

Contact your veterinarian if you have questions regarding the use of antibiotics on your farm.

Key points regarding the judicious use of antibiotics include the following:

  • Prevent problems and disease by practicing good animal husbandry (nutrition, hygiene, low-stress handling, vaccinations, deworming, etc.). Antibiotics should never be used in place of good husbandry.
  • Adhere to all antibiotic label directions, unless you are following a written prescription from your veterinarian. This includes treating for the recommended time period and adhering to meat and milk withdrawal periods.
  • Follow all FDA-approved labels or veterinary prescriptions with respect to antibiotic storage, administration, and record keeping.
  • Avoid using antibiotics that are important to human medicine.
  • Use a narrow spectrum of antibiotics. Combination antibiotic therapy is discouraged. In other words, use a medication that is FDA-labeled or veterinary-prescribed to treat the specific condition present. Do not use more than one antibiotic at a time.
  • Treat as few animals as possible, but always strive to maintain healthy animals.
  • Limit antibiotic use to treatment or control of disease.

Milking Protocol

1. Use gloves.

Anyone who handles a lactating animal’s teats should wear gloves at all times.

Wearing gloves prevents transmission of pathogens to the animal, including both contagious and environmental pathogens. Wearing gloves also prevents humans from contracting certain diseases that could be transmitted through the milking process.

2. Pre-dip the teats.

Use a separate clean and dry cloth or single-use paper towel to clean the teats of each individual animal. A damp paper towel or damp cloth can be used to aid in removal of dirt and feces that have dried on the teats. It is imperative that the teats are both clean and dry prior to stripping. Clean the teats by removing all visible dirt and debris from the entire length and circumference of each teat.

Each teat should be stripped 4 to 6 times each. Use a strip cup to look at the milk coming from the teat. If there is any discoloration or change in consistency of the milk, the animal needs to be examined further for mastitis.

The teats should then be dipped or sprayed with a germicidal product. Completely cover the bottom two-thirds of the teat and allow 15 to 30 seconds of contact time. Use a non-return reservoir on the dip cup. If any contamination to the dip cup and dipping reservoir occurs, wash it out before using it again.

Following dipping, each teat should be thoroughly dried with a single-use paper towel or laundered cloth towel to remove the germicidal product, pathogens, and organic debris from the teat end.

Note: An additional advantage of preparing teats for milking includes stimulating milk letdown. Milk letdown increases the speed of the milking process and helps to ensure that the maximum amount of available milk is removed from the udder, while minimizing trauma to the sensitive teat tissues.

3. Monitor the milking procedure.

The milking unit should be attached within 1 or 2 minutes of finishing the pre-dipping procedure.

During milking, monitor the milk flow to make sure that overmilking or undermilking of the udder does not occur. Overmilking of the udder occurs when the milking unit hangs on the udder too long; it results in vacuum irritation and injury to the teat end.

Monitor for slipping of the liner (inflation) on the teat end and units that fall off the udder. A squawking sound indicates that the liner has slipped from the teats and needs adjusting. To prevent undermilking, feel the udder to make sure that it is fully milked prior to letting an animal return to the herd.

4. Post-dip the teat.

After milking, post-dipping is important to prevent contagious udder pathogens Staph. aureus and Strep. agalactiae.

To post-dip an animal, remove the milking unit, feel the udder to ensure it is fully milked, and then spray or dip the teat opening with an approved germicidal product. Do not rinse off the post-dip.

Post-dip usually includes emollients to help prevent drying of the teat ends.

Following dipping, animals should stand up for approximately 1 hour to allow for keratin plug formation in the teat end to prevent pathogens from entrance to the streak canal.

Remember, having an effective SOP for milking protocols will ensure that animals are milked in an efficient manner without resulting in mastitis or elevated bacterial counts.

Value-Added Products Using Goat and Sheep Milk

Whether dairy goats and sheep are raised for commercial or personal intent, eventually there will be a surplus of milk that can be further processed into value-added products. This milk can be used fresh or frozen for later use. The potential value-added products come in the form of consumables, skin care, or utility products. Any of these endeavors can provide enjoyment, gifts, sellable products, and additional revenues.

Converting dairy milk into consumables may necessitate food safety inspections of milking, further processing facilities, and potentially product inspection. Consummable products intended for sale to the public must meet extensive legal, licensing, and inspection requirements. In most cases, skin care and utility products only require appropriate labeling and business licensing, not inspection.

Many value-added products can be marketed directly from the farm at farmer’s markets, public events, or retail shops. They can also be sold wholesale for further retail at gift shops, consignment stores, and hotels. Marketing such products via social media and websites can be done rather inexpensively, while still reaching an extensive audience.

There is a multitude of information available online on how to produce such products. Some of the best learning experiences will come from interaction with similar entrepreneurs, producer groups, or outreach trainings.


When it comes to product labeling for consumable products, consult your state health department, a product attorney, and online resources before marketing your product. Rules and requirements will vary from state to state.

For skin care products, consult a producer’s group or association, online resources, and product attorneys. Because the product is not being consumed, the regulations are less strict. An entrepreneur should be judicious in meeting all reasonable requirements for product labeling to be protected from lawsuits or nuisance complaints.

For utility products, there are no labeling requirements if the product is being used at home or on the producer’s farm. In this case, the product should be labeled for issues of personal and family safety. Consult your state health department for labeling requirements for this type of product if you plan to sell it to the public.

Dairy Product Production

Converting milk into consumables, skin care, or utility products requires the use of a reactionary agent or chemical process to further process the milk into another form.


Options in this category include cheeses (aged/hard or soft- spread), container milk, ice cream, kefir, and yogurt.

For making cheese, rennet is added. It contains an enzyme that converts raw milk into aged/hard cheese or soft-spread cheese. For making yogurt or kefir, a healthy bacterium is added to milk to convert it into a semi-liquid stage. Milk is often pasteurized through a heating and cooling process.

Skin care

Options in this category include lip balm (container or tube), lotion (liquid or solid), soaps (liquid or solid), and shampoo (liquid or solid).

To make soap and shampoo in liquid or solid form, you must mix oils, fats, liquids, and caustic chemicals to cause a chemical reaction called saponification.

Potassium hydroxide (for liquid soap) or sodium hydroxide (for solid soap) mixed with fats and oils will result in saponification and formation of beautiful handmade soap or shampoo. Producers must be cautious handling these chemicals, as both are very caustic and require special handling, equipment, and processing. The production difference between soap and shampoo is the addition of vitamin E, silk protein, or other hair-enhancing ingredients to shampoo.

Making lotion requires a modified version of wax that emulsifies oils and liquids into a viscous state that can vary from lotion to crème. Making lotion using liquid milk necessitates the use of a natural or synthetic preservative to prevent the goat milk from souring or spoiling.

Making lip balm requires the use of wax, oils, an emulsifying agent, and powdered goat milk. Liquid goat milk will not work when making a solid form of lip balm.

Utility Products

Options in this category include livestock milk as milk replacer and paint (whitewash paint).

To make a utility product, such as whitewash paint, you must curdle milk with vinegar and lime, and then add pigment to the milk curds before mixing it to create paint. The paint is nontoxic and provides a soft, long-lasting finish and an antique appearance.

Goat or sheep milk can also be used as a livestock feed source and does not require further processing. It can be used to feed kids and lambs, young and growing pigs, calves, equine and other livestock, and all orphaned animals. The milk has a high nutritional value and is easily digested by other livestock species.

Resource Assessment

An evaluation of labor, equipment, finances, facilities, and time constraints is necessary to determine which enterprise is most appropriate for each personal situation.

Whether milking two or a hundred animals, each part of the industry—from processing to marketing—requires time and effort. Diligence and hard work throughout can generate great profit.


Read more from the Dairy Goat and Sheep Operations in the Southeast Production Guide.

Download a PDF of Dairy Goat and Sheep Operations in the Southeast Production Guide, ANR-2457.