Blood in the goat milk? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 9 Old 03-07-2007, 06:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm sorry for another raw milk question. I promise I used the search function, but it wasn't very helpful to me.

We get our raw goat milk from a local gal who breeds goats for sale and meat. We're in KS and I think the milk selling is a side-thing, as she just has a glass jar you put the cash in (not sure if that's for legality or tax evasion, iykwim). The farm is small and kind of stinky, but I have no experience on farms, so I don't know what normal farm smells are. She's very involved in the local 4H and has her license hanging up. She says she gets inspected every month. I always see cash in the jar, and have seen other people stop by to buy things (she sells eggs, cuts of beef and veggies).

When I tried to tour the farm it was bitter cold. The farmer has pretty bad people skills (though I think she is a nice person, just not real sociable) and wasn't very receptive to some of my questions (about pasture, abx etc.). I felt sort of snowed and didn't do a thorough job of getting direct answers :. In the end I couldn't decide whether my apprehension was instinctive (therefore worth listening to) or just ingrained fear of 'RAW MILK'. But I figured other people bought from her, so it must be my issue.

For a month there was no milk b/c of all the kidding (is that what it's called?) but now there's plenty. But today in the last milk at the bottom of the jar I found traces of what appears to be blood. I know it was mentioned once in one of the zillion raw milk threads, but I can't find what was said. So here are my questions (sorry this is long winded):

1. Is blood in the milk bad? What does it mean?

2. I'm not sure what a 'cooling tank' should look like, but I really, really think this gal milks these goats straight into the large-mouthed gallon-sized glass jars. The barn is small, and the converted garage that has the refridgerators is catbox stinky. Are these bad signs for cleanliness or just normal farmlife and I have a big lesson in country living I need to learn?

3. I see the areas the goats hang out in, and they are about the size of my living room. I know she has acreage, but it's where the cows are. I assume that means the goats are not pastured. What questions should I ask her about what the goats eat?

4. She said when a goat does have an infection (thus treating w/ abx) she keeps that goat's milk out of rotation for twice as long as called for to ensure it isn't in the milk she sells. Is that good practice?

Please tell me your thoughts. I've read a lot on cow milk, but I've had a hard time finding a lot of info on goats. I found a yahoo group, but it seemed to be more about husbandry of different breeds .

TIA if you could help me out, I'd appreciate it.

-Jen
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#2 of 9 Old 03-07-2007, 08:52 PM
 
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My limited goat experience introduced me to a doe with mastitis - blood in the milk early on, much grosser as it progressed. But I think I've heard that it could be the result of rough milking (does she milk by hand?). Sorry, wish I knew conclusively.

You might want to point it out to her. See what her reaction is.

What are your other raw milk options? That might make it easier to decide whether your intution should be followed.

My goat source (where I sort of "interned" being that I'm apartment-bound and therefore can't have my own animals) is a farm where most of the goats are pastured (with grasses) but the milkers are not. They're given hay/alfalfa and "feed" made up of corn, oats, barley (COB), sunflower seeds and a milker mix (don't know what exactly is in it). They're not organically fed.

An ideal goat setting is one where they can browse (or have browse brought to them) - they're not really grazers. They love a varied diet and can lactate successfully enough to raise kids on what could be considered marginal land.

That being said, raising goats to increase milk production is typically done with grain inputs.

I have a personal interest in researching an optimal browse diet that would also support adequate lactation for human consumption, but have come across very few instances of that in the US. I think you'd be lucky if you came across a goat dairy like that, which I say to indicate that your goat milk supplier is probably feeding her goats the way most people do.

"my" goat farm isn't what I had expected in terms of cleanliness (the milking machine isn't usually sterilized though it gets hot water swished through it after each milking, for example) for a supplier of milk either - but I've had the milk and its wonderful, so I'll happily drink it...

This probably doesn't help much, but hopefully ?? :

Questions to ask if you haven't already: how long does it take the milk to go from goat to refrigerator? Does she use something to 'disinfect' the udder before and after milking each goat (can prevent transmission of problems throughout the herd)?

But those are small when compared to blood in the milk, I'd think. Find out what she says about it... oof, you needed a reply this long to tell you that?
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#3 of 9 Old 03-07-2007, 11:25 PM
 
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Personally, having grown up with raw milk (cow), and knowing people who have goats for milk, I would not accept that milk. There should never be blood in milk for human consumption; it is not up to accepted standards of cleanliness, imo. We *always* strain our milk through a tightly woven cotton fiber filter to remove any particles of dirt, hair, straw, etc. that might possibly have found their way into the pail during milking. The filter is always very clean. After filtering, it goes into a very clean glass jar, and straight into the fridge. I can remember only once or twice growing up finding a few clumps on the filter, and treating the cow for mastitis (we did not drink the milk at that point).

I've only ever seen blood in milk from cows in larger herds. Blood in the milk can be a sign of too rough milking, but more often, it is a sign of mastitis. Will it kill you to drink it? Not likely, but that milk shouldn't be making its way into the human food chain. It should be used for feeding the kids (goat kids, not children!) or cats, or whatever the farmer does with her "off" milk.

Certainly talk to her about it, but I would not go back for more.

As far as the handling practices: She shouldn't be milking straight into the jars in which you take the milk home. It needs to be filtered first, for above mentioned reasons. Not everyone does this, but I would not want the milk if it wasn't filtered first. If the milk goes through a filter, you can see early signs of mastitis, as well as ensuring removal of unwanted particulates.

A cooling tank is usually just a big stainless steel refrigerated tank. Doesn't have to be fancy, but it's usually SS for sanitary purposes.

It should not be particularly stinky where they are storing their milk, as milk can pick up off flavors from strong odors. It may be a sign that something isn't being cleaned properly. Depending on how the facility is cleaned, there may be a disinfectant/antiseptic smell, but you would probably recognize it as such; you probably wouldn't identify it as "catbox stinky".

Depending on your location, the goats may not have access to pasture this time of year. If they are pastured, however, they should have room to graze /move/ climb, etc., and access to grass in the warmer months. Even though they can survive on a less than ideal diet, milking goats are generally fed much better than "pet" goats, iykwim.

If I were in your shoes, I would write down my concerns/questions and talk to the farmer about them. I would play very dumb and ask her to really explain things until I understood her practices, even if she thought I was the stupidist city person on the planet! I think that you deserve answers to your questions, even if it seems obvious to the farmer. I'd much rather you ask your "dumb" question and feel good about what you are getting, then go home with reservations about my product. If you can find another source of goat's milk, check them out, even if it's just for comparison's sake. I would refuse improperly handled milk, even if it meant we didn't get any at all. It's just not worth the risk, imo.
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#4 of 9 Old 03-07-2007, 11:31 PM
 
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Our neighbors used to get pink milk with the other neighbor's dogs would chase the cows.
I wouldn't continue to buy there if it makes you wonder.

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#5 of 9 Old 03-08-2007, 12:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies. Turns out the 'blood' is actually colostrum . I didn't know that goat colostrum would be orange-colored, so when glancing at the milk at the bottom I assumed it was blood.

And as far as the space the goats have, I should be fair that they do have a fairly big area to run and jump, and there is grass in that space too. I guess I assume(d) that they need as much space as cows to be considered 'pasture' fed.

But, there is no way she's got a cooling tank anywhere. It's a gal and her husband, who have property on their house. So they have a small milking/bad weather barn and a couple places for the different goats. They converted the garage to have the fridges in it. And, it does smell like cats boxes b/c there were a few cats (and boxes) in there (which I realize is a 'duh' type of thing, I should have been more clear about questioning their level of professionalism vs just being farmers, if that makes any sense).

I think I will tour a few of the other goat farms nearby (I have lots of options, I am in good ole' KS afterall ) and compare.

Thanks!

ETA: I found them on the RealMilk website. Does anyone know if there's any amount of validation that comes with that? Or is it simply a directory?
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#6 of 9 Old 03-08-2007, 01:23 AM
 
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Ah, cool. Colostrom is orange because it has lots of vitamin A - the same vitamin that makes carrots orange. However, the animal source is easier to absorb and use.

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#7 of 9 Old 03-08-2007, 03:22 PM
 
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whew, glad it's colostrum and not blood (that was making me kind of squeamish all the way over in California!)

I forgot about the straining - yes that's important, you wouldn't believe the straw and clumps of dirt that get stuck on a goat's underside and somehow make their way into the milk...

I'm glad you have other options - I think it's always ok to check around and see if you can get exactly what you want.
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#8 of 9 Old 03-08-2007, 11:54 PM
 
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I milk goats and I would just ask her straight out if she strains the milk with filters. That is totally needed first of all.
A lot of home milkers do not have a cooling tank but cool it by hand in ice water or in an ice bath in the fridge.
I would ask her if you can watch a milking, that would answer a lot. I would want to see the udder washed, milk into a stainless steel container, then strained through a paper strainer into the holding container, then in an ice bath until finally refridgerated.
Its not going to be sterile clean if its a small homestead, ours isn't. But there are basic things you do......tour some other farms and you will get a better frame of reference.
Ideally, goats should have access to browse. In good weather, we take ours into the woods and they browse SO many different plants, bark, mushrooms etc, its wild!
If you have a lot of choices, I would check other places out, and go with the one that feels best. What the goats eat directly affects quality of milk, so once you could be sure the basic cleanliness was being taken care of, I would look to what they eat.
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#9 of 9 Old 03-10-2007, 04:22 PM
 
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Yes, that is very good advice, nettlesongmama. It doesn't have to be "sterile" to be acceptably clean. We've milked for over 30 years, and have never been sterile. However, we always wash the udder, always strain the milk, always wash all the milk things (buckets, pans, jars, etc.) in very hot, soapy water, and rinse well. We always chill the milk down very quickly after milking, to keep it as fresh as possible.

I agree, if you have other options for goat milk, check them out and go with the one you feel best about.
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