by Patrice Lewis – So what do you do if your arms hurt too much to milk your goats? And how can a goat milking machine help?
This situation happened to my friend Cindy T. back in 2014. Cindy is fortunate to work at home as a technical writer, which means she can take care of her family’s rabbits, chickens, garden, and six goats more easily than if she commuted. But because her job entails almost constant keyboard use, she found herself with a painful (though temporary) case of carpal tunnel syndrome during that summer.
“I had to depend on my husband to milk,” she recalled. “He’s not very good at it, but he did his best.” Cindy’s relatively minor CTS meant she was able to bring the condition under control by exercise, wearing splints at night, using a different computer mouse–and taking a break from milking her beloved caprines.
“My husband didn’t get any fonder of the goats after all was said and done,” she admitted.
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Recently over a potluck meal, I mentioned to Cindy my enthusiasm for a hand milking machine called the Udderly EZ milker, which I use with our cows. It can be adapted to any milking animal (not just cows or goats, but also sheep, camels, reindeer, horses, and just about anything else that lactates). I’ve used this milker to extract emergency colostrum from a cow after her calf was unable to nurse.
Cindy wasn’t interested at first because she associates goat milking machines with noise that would disturb the peaceful atmosphere of her barn’s milking parlor. But when I showed her it was entirely hand-powered, she grew enthusiastic. “You mean it’s not loud or disruptive?”
“No, it’s just a simple vacuum pump.” I demonstrated how squeezing the “trigger” two or three times would create a gentle vacuum that extracts the milk into a collecting bottle.
Cindy wanted to try it out on her goats right away, so one morning I brought over the pump, she set up one of her favorite nannies on the goat stanchion, and within moments she was getting milk into the collecting bottle.
“It’s clean!” she exclaimed, since the milk had no opportunity to be exposed to hair or dust or straw. When the milk flow slowed down, she pumped the handle twice more, then just held the milker while the milk streamed from the teat into the collection bottle. “I wish I’d known about this when I had carpal tunnel,” she mused. “My husband wouldn’t have had to deal with the goats.”
Help for Those who Need It
The Udderly EZ is a hand-held, trigger-operated vacuum pump that attaches to a flanged plastic cylinder. For those unable to milk their goats due to carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, fibromyalgia, lymphasemia, or any other painful or debilitating condition, the EZ milker offers a simple solution. The Ultimate EZ–the electric version of the goat milking machine–can milk both teats at the same time. It’s as fast as commercial milkers with less noise (and one-third the cost), so the animals hardly know it’s running. The silicone inserts are gentle even on engorged or misshapen teats, which often plague goats.
Proudly Made in the USA
So where did this nifty milker come from? It was a simple case of necessity being the mother of invention, and it came from trying to milk out colostrum from thoroughbred horses in the racing industry. Inventor Buck Wheeler said, “I knew there just had to be a better and safer way to collect the colostrum from these thoroughbred mares than the way we were doing it. Everyone was using either a 60 cc syringe by hand, or a women’s breast pump, and they did not work!”
Facing a sad case in which a thoroughbred mare had died, leaving behind a 10-day-old foal, Buck related, “I told the hired man to go buy some goat milk, and he came back with the goat and kid. He said it was cheaper to buy mama. The rest is history.”
Buck started the Udderly EZ company, calling it “a million dollar leap of faith and just by accident.” Its research and development started in about 2003, and they went into manufacturing and marketing in 2004.
The initial product was a hand-powered vacuum pump designed to extract colostrum from thoroughbred mares. Three or four squeezes establish the vacuum, after which the user stops squeezing so the milk can flow into the collection bottle. When the milk flow slows down, the user gives another gentle squeeze or two until the milk flows again.
The milker worked beautifully with horses. After listening to requests from clients, the company continued to improve and upgrade the milker and its silicone inflations (the tube which fits over the animal’s teat) and broadened their marketing. By adding three different sizes of color-coded silicone inserts into the extractor tubes, it was an easy and natural step to use this milker on other species: cows, sheep, different goat types, camels, reindeer, yaks…in short, any domesticated animal that lactates.
It wasn’t long before an electric version became available, and after that a solar-powered version, making the milkers particularly useful for those off-grid or trying to minimize their carbon footprint.
From theses humble beginnings, the Udderly EZ hand milker became an international sensation among small farmers. “With a lot of time, experience, investment and listening to our clients, the Udderly EZ Hand Milker has become a household name,” said Buck. “It’s currently being used in over 65 countries and under many languages worldwide, and is used on sheep, goats, cows, horses, donkeys, and camels. The hand milker was instrumental in the development of its stablemate, the Udderly EZ Electric Milker.”
In this age of cheap imports, the Udderly EZ products are proudly and entirely made in the U.S.A. Buck Wheeler would have it no other way. Yet despite the international success, the company’s roots remain in humble agrarian lifestyles. Here in America it is the Plain People who have taken it to heart. Many Amish farmers use EZ milkers to make their job more sanitary and efficient.
Beware of Misuse
Some people have tried the Udderly EZ and came away disappointed, claiming damage to their goats’ teats because of the powerful suction of the vacuum. This is usually because they keep squeezing the pump handle beyond what it takes to start the milk flowing, creating a stronger and stronger vacuum until the teat becomes damaged.
The secret of successfully using the EZ milker–besides employing the correctly sized inflation–is to stop pumping when the milk is flowing well. When the milk flow slows down, pump another two or three times, but no more. Over-pumping will shut off the valve.
The EZ milkers are something like blood pressure cuffs: a little vacuum goes a long way. Just like a nurse would not continue inflating a blood pressure cuff on your arm until you were in extreme pain, neither is it necessary to squeeze the pump handle on an EZ goat milking machine more than three or four times, just long enough to establish a milk flow. More than that, and you might hurt the animals.
Udderly EZ milkers are not just for daily milking, though they’re superb for that function. Nor are they solely used to ease the burden of people dealing with medical issues in their hands and arms. They are also used for animals that need assistance: those with mastitis, or those with misshapen teats, making it difficult for babies to nurse. They’re also a superb aid for milking a sick nanny, which keeps the milk isolated from that of healthy animals.
On our farm, the EZ milker was instrument in saving a calf born to an elderly Jersey cow whose udder hung too low for the baby to nurse. I milked out the colostrum and bottle-fed the calf until the mother’s udder resumed less-swollen proportions and the calf was able to nurse directly. It’s the nature of emergencies to be unexpected, and without the EZ milker on hand, the outcome for the newborn calf might have been very different.
Back in the Barn…
After watching me use the Udderly EZ goat milking machine on her goats, my friend Cindy became a convert, particularly since she is likely to suffer from a recurrence of her carpal tunnel syndrome in the future. “I can’t take chances,” she said. “Something like this could be a lifesaver someday.”
On our farm, it already has.