Tuesday, June 30, 2015

5 Reasons For Bitter Goat Milk And How You Fix Them

It's been a hard, hot day and you're rummaging the kitchen for life sustaining food and drink. Aha, perfect. You pour a glass of fresh goat milk and grab a handful of chocolate chip cookies and soon the squeak of the chair across linoleum and the munch of cookies are the only sounds you hear. You close your eyes. You lift the cool glass to your lips and anticipate the sweet goodness. One problem: the milk that hits your taste buds is salty with a bitter aftertaste. Spoiled. Your dreamy, book perfect snack has been spoiled.

Ever had that happen to you? If you own milk goats chances are this has been your experience at least once. Thankfully, there is almost always an answer that will turn bitter milk sweet again. Here are the five most common reasons for off tasting goat milk.

Unsanitary Milking Equipment and/or Conditions

I mentioned this in last week's post on how to sterilize milking equipment, but it bears repeating. The number ONE reason for off tasting milk is due to unclean pails, strainer, jars or milking area. Goat milk is very fussy and will pick up bacteria and odors more than other kinds of milk, so being scrupulously clean is a must. This is the first thing we look into when we have milk that is off. I truly can't exaggerate the importance of clean equipment, clean environment clean hands and a clean doe.

For Clean Equipment:
(Note: this is for those who milk by hand. For machine milker, I highly recommend you consult your owner's guide on how best to clean and store your machine)

Buy a stainless steel seamless milk pail and strainer (see links for suppliers who offer seamless stainless steel milking equipment).

Invest in high quality filter discs to use in your strainer that can be disposed after each use (we have found Schwartz Filter Clean from Hoegger to be the best).

Use a strip cup before each milking. A strip cup is used for the first two to three squirts of milk from each teat. This helps to flush any bacteria lurking in the teat and detecting the first signs of mastitis because any blood or specks will be visible. A strip cup can by anything from a specially made cup with a mesh screen for the milk to pass through or an old coffee mug that you scrutinize carefully. Save the milk in the strip cup for the barn cat's enjoyment.

Use a bleach solution to sanitize your equipment. Yes, there are some fortunate souls who can just toss it in the dishwasher and never have a problem, but I highly recommend going the extra mile and bleaching your equipment. Please click here for our sanitation procedure

Use glass jars with good lids. Canning lids can be used, just watch for rust spots or cracked seals that might hid bacteria. Never use plastic jugs to store your milk as the pores can never be fully purged of bacteria.

For Clean Goat:
Goats are relatively clean animals, but it's essential for the dairymaid who milks by hand to keep her does trimmed and neat. Hair snags dirt and bacteria and will taint the milk if it falls into it. To minimize this risk, keep the doe's stomach, udder, back legs and tail trimmed (closely shaven with clippers is best: the shorter the better) at all times. During warm weather, it's also good to completely trim the doe and wash her as needed. Depending on the breed, you may also need to remove sneaky hairs by brushing before each milking.

Brush any kind of debris off the doe's stomach, legs and udder. Please also use some kind of udder wash (commercial washes, bleach solution or vinegar solution) to clean those same areas. Use paper towels and clean the udder first, moving to the stomach and then lastly the legs. Not only will this improve the taste and quality of your milk, but it will go far in saving you many days of misery from bacteria causing illnesses.

For Clean Conditions:
Choose an area with good ventilation and away from where animals bed and eat. If the area smells when you enter, then that smell might be absorbed by the milk.

Keep the area clean and swept with a clean shelf for you to place your clean equipment on while you handle the doe.

A milk room with a sink for frequent hand washing is ideal, but just being mindful of where your hands have been will help considerably.

Make a list of your milking procedure to hang in your milk room to remind you or any helpers about what you do to achieve clean milk.

Keep your milk stand free of mud, hair or whatever debris the goat may track in.

It has also been reported that keeping does and bucks together will spoil the milk. Bucks have a very strong smell and if the smell is on the doe during milking, it very easily could taint her milk with a “bucky” taste.

Reason # 2: Cooling

The second biggest reason, I've found for poor milk is the milk not being cooled fast enough. Whereas cows milk can simply be placed in the refrigerator with no further concern, it won't work for goat milk. The milk will still be safe to drink if you followed proper cleanliness, but the taste will not be as delightful. There are two methods we have found for successfully cooling goat milk.

Method 1
Have a pot of ice water (tall enough to cover your jars) in your frig before going to milk. Immediately after you finish straining the milk place the jars in the ice water and leave for about 30 minutes to a hour. For best results, use a thermometer and strive to cool the milk to 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit in about 30 minutes. I've also head of folks using an old cooler to save on the frig space.

Method 2
Place the milk in the deep freezer for about a hour. The goal is to get the milk slightly frozen, but not so much that it expands to the point of breaking your jar (you may want to leave a little more head space in the jar just in case you forget :)) This method will work with varying success because not every deep freezer cools fast enough. We have only been able to use this method in the last year when we purchased a new deep freeze that now cools the milk fast enough and it is working very well. In some ways this is a process you will probably be tweaking over the years, but following the rule of thumb of cooling the milk to 35-40 degrees in thirty minutes will guide you well.

Reason # 3: Poor Doe Health

The third most common culprit of bitter milk is poor health in the doe. Mastitis is a common dairy goat ailment and may give the milk a salty flavor or shorten how long it will keep fresh. Your local feed store will have chemical remedies for mastitis, if you suspect this is the problem. There are also natural treatments you can do, if you prefer that route. Please feel welcomed to contact me if you'd like some natural solutions for goat mastitis.

A doe fighting a parasite overload or who is in general poor health may also have off tasting milk. When a doe is under stress and not getting her health needs met, she will not have the extra energy to produce good milk, so be sure she is having all her health requirements met. For great resources that cover the health needs of goats, look up Natural Goat Care (Pat Coleby) or Fias Co Farm .

Reason # 4: Breed

I hate to pick on certain breeds, but it is a cold, hard truth that some dairy breeds are more prone to stronger tasting milk than others. One big reason goat milk products have a stigma is because most stores sell products made from Toggenburgs, who have a reputation for a very bold taste. Alpines can also be known to produce a stronger flavor. This doesn't mean their milk is bad and I'm sure there are some who enjoy the more powerful taste. But Americans who have been weaned off of grocery store milk might find the mild, sweeter taste of the LaMancha or Nubian milk more appealing. I'm sure there are cute, lovable Toggenburgs and Alpines out there whose milk is just as sweet as they are, BUT breed is something to consider when it comes to finding a good family milker.

Reason #5 Feed

The legendary tale of dairy animals giving onion flavored milk as the green onions come on in the spring is very true. Other foods that can give strong flavors are cabbage (which should never be fed to goats to began with), mints, or really any thing with a strong flavor. There are a couple exceptions (garlic for one), but a good rule to follow is what your goat taste is what you will taste. Also pay attention to how your milk tastes when you add a new feed to the diet, as some feeds can cause strong flavor in milk. Thankfully this is the easiest one to correct since all you do is identify the offender and remove it from your doe's reach.

Keeping your own goat milk can take some effort, but remember almost every problem is solvable. In fact, I'd love to hear what has helped you in your dairymaid journey. What are some solutions you have discovered for keeping your goat milk sweet?

Suppliers of Milking Equipment

Hoegger Supply Company

Caprine Supply

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