Milking goats is a chore – in every sense of the word. They don’t hold still without help (and training) and their teat size can make milking harder. I was always looking for a way to make milking our two Nigerian dwarf goats easier and faster. So when you hear of goat owners trying to milk a goat with a human breast pump, it should come as no surprise. But can you milk a goat with a breast pump?
A breast pump can be used to milk smaller goats (Nigerian dwarf or Pygmies) or full-sized goats with smaller teats, although human-sized shields will need to be replaced with goat-sized ones. Breast pumps must also be tested for proper fit and sufficient suction to make the milk flow.
Goats can be stubborn creatures, and when combined with their small stature and small teats, milking them can become a real chore. Some innovative homesteaders have tried out the novel idea of using a breast pump to make the milking process easier and less physically demanding.
Let’s see how this works exactly.
Why Would You Milk A Goat With A Breast Pump?
Some homesteaders struggle with milking goats due to a few problems that are unique to milking goats.
- They are smaller animals. This necessitates the need to build a ramp for the goat to raise them up for milking or for the person doing the milking to sit very low.
- They have smaller teats. The smaller teats, in comparison to milking cows, make goats harder to milk and causes your hands to fatigue quite quickly. Of course, you eventually can get used to this, and eventually, it is no longer a problem.
- Miniature goats are harder to milk. Many of the dwarf goat species have very small teats that people find difficult to milk by hand.
- Struggle to master the technique. Milking goats requires a different technique than milking cows. The homesteader may struggle to master the different techniques.
- Physical challenges. The homesteader may have physical injuries or problems that make it difficult to get to the milking position or have sufficient strength and dexterity in the hands to milk the goat. Arthritis in the hands is a common cause that may prompt a homesteader to seek alternatives.
- Goats can be plain ornery. Goats can be stubborn creatures that take exception to get milked. Finding an alternative milking method may be a solution to dealing with a particularly stubborn goat and preventing injury to the milker.
There are commercial goat milking machines available, similar to machines that milk cows. The problem with this commercial solution is that the equipment for going this route is expensive, and the cost cannot be justified if you only have a small herd of goats.
These reasons stimulate homesteaders to find some alternative solutions to the problem by thinking outside the box and re-purposing equipment.
Does Milking A Goat With A Breast Pump Work?
So, is a human breast pump effective as a goat milking machine, and will it work as an alternative to milking by hand?
The answer is that it will work in some circumstances, but not in all situations. The situation where milking is a problem is most commonly found in the dwarf breeds of goats, such as the Nigerian dwarf goats and the Pygmy goats.
These goats have significantly smaller teats, which can make them more difficult to milk by hand. But fortunately, using a human breast pump makes it easier to milk these goats.
When it comes to full-size or normal-size goats, a human breast pump will not work. A normal size goat has teats that are substantially larger than a human’s nipples. As a result, the attachments that are made for human breast pumps do not have the right capacity to accommodate a goat’s teats.
You may be able to offset this by getting larger, goat-sized shields and attachments for the breast pump. However, you will probably be doing a fair bit of DIY tweaking along the way.
I’ve seen a lot of DIY goat shields that are actually just 20-30 mL oral syringes – with the plungers pulled out and put on backward. Then, you attach the oral, squirty side to the breast pump tubing. Of course, the downside to this kind of DIY is that it requires a lot of testing. Also, the vacuum seal is likely to fail at the weakest attachment point – which is where you attach the syringe to the breast pump tubing.
Using a pump can be a great way to milk a goat. Especially if you have a kid who won’t nurse. That being said, here’s another commonly asked question answered: Do you have a goat kid refusing the bottle? Here’s what to do.
How To Milk A Goat With A Breast Pump
If you have a dwarf breed of goats, you can follow this procedure to use a breast pump to milk the goat. This procedure works with all breast pumps – and all goat milk pumps.
- Choose the right size breast attachment. Most human breast pumps come with a range of sizes of cups or shields to accommodate different sizes of breasts and nipples. Finding the right attachment to fit your goat’s teats may take some experimentation to find the appropriate size. Or you may opt to make a DIY shield of an appropriate size.
- Test the settings. Most modern breast pumps come with a range of settings. Some of these settings simulate the initial sucking of an infant to stimulate the “let down” reflex to initiate milk flow. This setting is probably irrelevant or over-the-top for your goat, but you can try it to stimulate milk flow.
- Choose an appropriate suction strength. Breast pumps come with multiple intensity levels of suction to extract milk from the breast. You will need to experiment with different suction levels to determine which will be the most effective for your goat. Bear in mind that one level of suction may work for one goat but not for another. You will need to adjust the suction strength level for each goat that you milk.
- Vary the suction. Goats can’t take constant suction on their teats. It’ll blanch or damage their teats. So make sure that there’s some non-suction time on the breast pump. Thankfully, most breast pumps do this automatically.
- Have enough bottles on hand. A goat will fill more bottles than a human could normally express. Therefore, you will need to find bigger bottles that can attach to the breast pump or have many bottles that you can swap out often. If a bottle gets too full, the contents could be sucked into the pump and damage the pump. In other words, get lots of little bottles. Or better yet, find a way to attach some larger bottles, so you don’t need to carry around so many supplies.
- Monitor the process. While you test the right settings and find the right ones that will extract milk from the goat, keep a close eye on the goat for signs of discomfort or distress.
- You may need to start and finish milking by hand. Even though a breast pump can help with most of the process, some goats may still need to be started and finished by hand. This will depend on the milker, the goat, and other factors.
Many people who try this method find that it works well for these smaller goats. As I said earlier, the human-sized breast pump simply does not have the capacity to accommodate the larger teats of bigger goats. At least not without some serious DIY adjustments.
What Are Your Milking Alternatives for Larger Goats?
If you have bigger, full-sized goats (or just more goats) on your homestead, what alternatives do you have for milking your goats by hand?
Most commercial goat milking systems are designed to cater to homesteaders or farmers that have large herds of goats that need to be milked.
These systems can be expensive to purchase and often need electricity to operate. The prices of these systems are normally out of reach of the average homesteader and overkill for the number of goats that they need to milk.
I have found a product that offers a solution for low-scale goat farmers with scalable options to suit most smaller operations.
The product is offered by a company called Udderly EZ, and they have a range of products for milking smaller livestock animals such as goats and sheep. I am not an affiliate partner with them, nor can I find their product anywhere but on their own site.
Their product Udderly EZ Hand Goat Milkers looks like a great product that works on the same principle as a (human) breast pump.
This company specializes in the kind of small-scale milking that many homesteaders will be dealing with, and they not only offer a product for goats but also small-scale cow milkers as well.
For the goats, they have a product that is hand-operated to generate the suction, which is great if you do not have electricity in your milking shed.
The hand pump model is very affordable as well and comes in at a little under $190 for a two-cylinder, single-pump model. This allows you to milk two teats fairly quickly – and within a closed, clean system. All you do is change the pump to the other cylinder to milk the other side.
If you prefer a powered pump, they also offer a model that uses a small electric pump. They also have power packs, just in case you want an electric pump but don’t have an outlet. These options are pricier, though – starting north of $500.
The hand pump makes a lot of financial and homesteading sense as a cheaper option (at least compared to buying a brand-new breast pump) designed to work on your goats. They also have an option designed for the smaller dwarf goat species with appropriately sized extraction tube inserts. I think my favorite part is that there’s not a whole lot of DIY’ing needed – just order and go milk the goats.
Final Thoughts and Next Steps: Milking Goats with Breast and Milk Pumps
While it is possible to use a human breast pump to milk smaller goats that have smaller-sized teats, it is not an option that is guaranteed to work on every goat.
You may have a run of luck and find that it works for your limited milking needs, but you may also find that the human breast pumps are not robust enough to survive the rigors of homesteading life and milking your goats in the shed year in and year out.
A better option would be a purpose-built product designed to fit in the homestead niche that will better match your goat milking needs.
We have loved having our two Nigerian dwarf goats. But the hand milking was a huge strain on my arms – I managed to strain some ligaments that made milking by hand impossible for a couple of weeks while I healed. Their small teats and my still-learning technique weren’t a great combination. If I’d still had my breast pump, I’d have converted it into a DIY goat milker in a heartbeat.
However, I didn’t have one – and I wasn’t going to shell out $150+ for a breast pump – and then still have to convert it to a goat milker. I was willing to buy used, but used breast pumps seemed to cost as much as new ones. If I could go back, I’d tell myself to get the goat hand milk pump and give that a try.
Again, I’m not an affiliate partner for this – it really just looks like the best option out there. You can go check out the Udderly EZ goat milking system by clicking here.
Or if you want to know more about storing goat milk, make sure you check out my new article, How Long Does Goat Milk Last? (Raw, Fresh, Frozen, etc.).