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Troubleshooting Off-Flavored Goat Milk Part 2

Troubleshooting Off-Flavored Goat Milk Part 2

By Lacey Yates

Part one of this two part series was all about trouble-shooting milk flavor by managing the goat and what she considers.  The second part of this series is focused on managing and handling the milk and the environment you are milking in.  If milk tastes good coming directly out of the goat (sample it in its freshest form), but is developing an off flavor hours or days later, then you’ll know that you need to troubleshoot your milk handling practices.  

Goat milk is very delicate and will easily pick up flavors.  It’s important that you are milking in a clean area free from dust, dirt, and other animals such as chickens and cats.  I realize not everyone can milk on cement, but you can cut down on dirt and dust by spreading clean shavings under the milk stanchion.  Just keep in mind milk can pick up and absorb flavors easily.  If your milking area has a barnyard smell, your milk will absorb that odor and taste as equally bad.  Keep your parlor as fresh and clean as possible, sweep daily, and make it somewhere you enjoy being!

Pictured is my milking area, clean and tidy 

Your hands and even clothing should be clean.  Save mucking out stalls and other dirty chores for after all milking and milk handling chores are done.  Brush the goat off prior to her entering the milking area, paying close attention to her udder, belly, and rear legs.  Removing as much foreign matter as possible prior to milking helps keep hay, manure, and stray hairs from falling into the milk pail.  Keeping udders clipped will also help with cleanliness.  For your goat to come into the milk parlor clean, her living space should be as clean as possible.  Ensuring she is bedded down in fresh straw or shavings overnight will keep her udder and belly much cleaner (not to mention clean pens also reduce the risk of your doe getting mastitis).  Goats are very clean animals that favor dry areas.  So not only is cleanliness healthier for your doe, they will also be much happier in a clean home!

My daughter is pictured here helping with the daily pen cleaning

The teats should be cleaned and dried well prior to milking.  A good udder prep to follow is: 

  • Clean udder and teats with a very warm and mild soapy, wrung out cloth.
  • Strip (milk 3 squirts from each quarter).
  • Dip each teat with a teat dip (iodine or hydrogen peroxide are common active ingredients).
  • Dry each teat with a clean cloth.

All milking equipment should be stainless steel.   Stay away from anything plastic.  Plastic is porous, harbors bacteria, and will affect milk flavor and quality.  

Your milking equipment cleanliness is crucial when it comes to milk flavor.  While this may seem like common sense, clean equipment goes beyond a hot, soapy scrub.  Even more so if you are using a milking machine.  With a machine, there are so many nooks and crannies that if not properly cleaned will grow bacteria colonies and acquire mineral build up.  A good step-by-step cleaning guide for equipment is: 

  • After milking, first rinse all equipment with lukewarm water.
  • Give all equipment a thorough hot, soapy scrub.
  • Rinse with lukewarm water and hang to dry.
  • Use a weekly acid wash to remove mineral build up.

I prefer hand milking and have a pro tip:  I milk each doe into a smaller pail, then dump milk into a large bulk pail fitted with a large stainless steel strainer.  No matter how clean the goat is before milking begins, there will always be some form of debris ending up in the bucket.  It’s just a fact of milking. Once milking is completed, I will strain the bulk pail a second and final time into sanitized glass jars to chill. 

My bulk pail with strainer setup with small pail

Chilling and storing milk contributes to flavor and quality as well.  Milk should be filtered and filled to 40 degrees or less in about 2 hours after milking. Since most of us don’t have access to rapid bulk tank chillers that the larger scale dairies have, we can simply set the strained pail or jars of milk in an ice bath. Lightly agitating the jars or pail can help with quicker chilling, but be VERY mindful that with goat milk, excessive agitation will cause more off flavors by actually damaging the fat globules.  Rapid, but gentle cooling will inhibit and slow down the growth of bacteria and lipase.  Too much lipase gives milk that distinct “goaty” flavor that turns many off. 

Once chilled, goat milk should be kept at 37-38 degrees in your fridge.  Milk should not be stored in the door of the fridge as this spot it often the warmest.  Keep the jars of milk pushed towards the back of your fridge (coldest area).  Be mindful of strong smells in your fridge and review safety placement guidelines and recommendations.  You sure don’t want to be storing your raw chicken directly above your dairy products!  While it might not be a specific flavor issue, it could be a safety hazard.  

To conclude this 2 part series on troubleshooting off flavored milk, I do want to add that I was once frustrated with off flavored milk as a beginner goat owner.  It took me a few years of trial and error and lots of reading and research to help me understand flavor contributors and what I personally needed to change to improve milk quality and flavor.  Consistently monitoring and controlling what your goat consumes paired with good milk handling and hygiene will provide consistent, fresh and delicious milk!


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