Milking machine: make your own goat (or cow).Tired of milking 10 does by hand, we bartered for an old 1950s milk machine and this was the first time we would use it.
Being "off-grid" I had an old generator out back to power it. As I fired it up blue smoke quickly hung in the air like a cloud and the roar of that worn out thing was deafening. Next we plugged in the old milk machine not really knowing what to expect but it started working immediately. S-N-O-R-T--HAA! S-N-O-R-T--HAAA! Karen and I looked at each other. I yelled out "it sounds like it's in heat!" Matched with the roar of that old generator the pair sure was noisy. Karen brought the first goat, Blackie, around to get started. Blackie was our most senior high producing milker and we thought she would be a good choice to see how well this old machine would work. She very hesitantly walked past our smoke spewing, snorting contraption. The combination of panic and confusion was obvious in her demeanor.
Concerned that she would bolt, Karen gripped her collar tight as she coerced her onto the stanchion. Blackie never took her eyes off of that milk machine. I think she thought it was alive. As Karen unracked the claw and moved toward Blackie's teats that goat quickly figured out what was about to happen as her eyes got really wide and she bleated loudly as in "There is no way you're gonna hook that thing up to me!" And it wasn't easy and it took awhile, but she eventually gave in. As Karen and I yelled to each other just to have a conversation, I knew this wasn't going to work out for us, but the simplicity of that old milk machine really got me thinking.
In the late 1970s I was a herdsman at an 800-cow dairy so I am familiar with the milking procedure and the equipment needed. So that night I did some more thinking and scribbling in my notebook and thought I had a homemade milk machine just about figured out. I knew that the vacuum to run the machine could easily be supplied by an idling automobile but I couldn't figure out how to build a simple pulsator. The pulsator is the device that controls the squeezing and relaxing of the teat as it is being milked (a very important and necessary function).
Ultimately it was the pulsater and its mount that cost the most. For the pot I used an old pressure cooker pot purchased at a second-hand store. The teat cups were 1 1/4 inch PVC pipe but we had to buy the liners. These were inexpensive along with the bulk of the other parts. The construction of it was fairly simple; you can build your own.
Included below are complete directions that show exactly how to build what we call the "Poor Boy Goat Milking Machine." After six years we are still using the original prototype machine and now we use a quietly idling truck to run it, with stereo music to boot! We have had absolutely no problems with the machine, the truck, or any of our goats. It is quick, quiet, easy and a proven design. An idling auto requires very little gas per goat even at today's prices. As soon as the goats hear the truck start, they are ready to go. On a scale of 1-10 in difficulty to build, this was probably a 4. Any handy type person would have no problems building a "Poor Boy Goat Milking Machine." We actually sold these through NASCO for a year but sales were slow. We had rave reviews with no complaints so we thought that they would let us go another year hoping it would catch on, but they didn't. We sell occasionally on eBay now. I think most folks are leery about using their car for this but I can assure anyone that no harm would result. We have used multiple autos with ours but primarily our 1979 Ford with no problems whatsoever. Each auto runs and performs as good today as ever.
Building a milker is not hard and really not that time consuming. Take the parts list down to your local hardware store, and I'm sure you can get almost all of the hardware in one stop. These machines work just like any other milk machine but at a fraction of the cost.
Again, the following is a complete parts list and step-by-step directions for building your own machine. Just take it one step at a time. A "Poor Boy Goat Milking Machine" will give you years and years of trouble-free service.
"Poor Boy Goat Milking Machine[R]" building instructions
We are aware of the damage that can be done to the animal if the machine functions are not precise. Our system keeps everything within the proper limits and we have had no problems. However, adjustments to achieve these limits are required by you to control. (Just a twist of a knob and a screw.)
Building the "Poor Boy Goat Milking Machine" is very simple although you will need access to a tap and die set for only 2 holes. If you don't have a set, ask your friends as they are a common tool for any shop or handyman. You will also need a hacksaw, tape measure, some glue for PVC pipe, an adjustable crescent wrench and access to a drill and bits. The most expensive parts you will need to purchase are a manufactured pulsator plus the adapter, inflations, a pressure cooker pot and a vacuum gauge. The pulsator, adapter and inflations we bought from a farm and ranch supplier called NASCO (800-559-9595). You can buy the vacuum gauge there also but we bought ours, the hoses, fittings and PVC from our local hardware store, and for the milk pot we used an old 8 qt. pressure cooker pot. You might try WalMart for this, although you may be able to find one at a thrift store. We milk goats and found that an 8 qt. pot was sufficient. When you know it's getting full it's easy to dump quickly between goats. If you're milking a cow you will want to acquire at least a 22 qt. pot, or you could put two small ones in series. However, you want your pot large enough to get through at least one animal, be it goat or cow. Don't get into a situation where you have to stop in the middle of milking to dump your pot. You certainly don't' need a new pot for this, just make sure the rubber seal is in good shape. After you acquire your pulsator, adaptors, liners, vacuum gauge and pot it's time to go to the hardware store.
Below is a list of items to buy:
Pressure cooker pot
Pair of inflations (teat cup liners) NASCO #C10963N-6M
Vacuum gauge with 1/4" NPT connection NASCO #C06096N
Pulsator NASCO #Z10785N
Pulsator adaptor NASCO #S03878501NR
Permanent mount adaptor (Ask for special order Coburn part #161406)
2 Plastic barb adaptors 1/4" MIP x 3/8" barb (Ace Hardware #19-9655)
3-1/4" brass lock nut (Ace Hardware #17-9291)
Backing nut to fit your vacuum gauge
Spring (Century Spring Corp #C-730 13/32 x 2-3/4 x .047 utility comp spring or equivalent)
Brass 3/8" flair plug
9/16" flat USS plated washer
2-3/8" x 3/8" x 3/8" plastic tees
4-1/2" thread to 3/8" barb (plastic)
1/2" threaded PVC ball valve
4-3/4" hose clamps
2-1/2" PVC slip to thread adapter/ coupler
1/2" PC slip to thread tee
1/2" PVC 90 degree slip coupler
1/2" x 1-1/2" PVC threaded nipple
1/2" PVC threaded cap
Marble, average size (catseye type)
1/8" NPT x 5/16" 90-degree hose barb (plastic or brass-you might have to go to an auto parts store for this part)
2' of 1/2" PVC pipe (schedule 40)
9" of 1-1/4" PVC slip caps
8' of 5/16" plastic hose, clear
13' of 3/8" thick wall plastic hose, clear
A small amount of PVC glue and silicone caulking
The vacuum power of the "Poor Boy Milking Machine" is supplied by our ranch truck. Any vehicle that is in decent running condition will pull the minimum of 10.5" of mercury needed to run the machine. This slight modification does absolutely no harm to your vehicle and as long as the valve is shut off when you unhook your machine there will be no difference in your engine or brake performance. We hooked into the main vacuum line that runs from the intake manifold to the vacuum booster behind the brake master cylinder (See diagram.) I should explain to those that don't know that you are not cutting into your brake lines. (Ed. note: Unless you're familiar with vehicles, we don't suggest you try this on your own, especially if your vehicle has anti-lock brakes.) The vacuum booster is a device that helps you apply pressure when you press the brake peddle. Even if you forget to shut off the ball valve after unhooking the machine you would still have brakes, but the pedal will be harder to push. Rest assured, after this modification you can still use your vehicle as you did before the modification. This will not affect the performance at all.
Now you must understand that although this modification is very simple, because of liability concerns that could result from any modification to a vehicle's original equipment, we must request that this modification be done by a qualified mechanic. That's what we did first, we cut the vacuum hose behind the carburetor to the booster about 4" from the fitting at the booster (See Fig. 1) Insert your 3/8" plastic tee (pull your hose clamps over the hose first) into the hose. Take your 3/8" clear hose and hook to that tee. (Remember the clamp.) Rub the hose over to the side out of the way on the fender Secure it so it doesn't slip into harm's way. Take your ball valve and either Teflon tape or pipe dope the threads and put a straight 1/2" thread to the 3/8" hose adapter on each end. Attach the valve to the hose so it's at an easily accessible place (don't forget your hose clamp). Make sure all of the hose clamps are tight. Now you're done with the car part of this. You will not use any more hose clamps, as they won't be necessary.
Now we can get on to the plumbing parts and the vacuum regulator Look at the diagram. Each PVC part is listed. Build yours exactly like the layout drawn (Fig. 2). Each piece of PVC pipe between the fittings will be marked with a number. This is the number of inches the piece is long (not the distance between fittings). Now, cut these pieces. You will need 2-4" pieces. The piece with the "?" in Fig. 2 is up to you. If you're setting up in a barn I would run this piece of pipe along the wall to the outside. Then use the hose from there to the vehicle. Now, I've gone 25' to the truck and still had plenty of vacuum. This is a situation decision. But if you find you're not getting enough vacuum try shortening that length. Now, put this together according to the diagram using the PVC glue. It might be wise to dry fit everything first. Don't push it together too hard because it's hard to get apart. Use a minimal amount of glue on these joints. To make this "portable" you can clamp the whole assembly to a board. Now it's time to build the regulator
The regulator consists of only 4 parts: (Fig. 3) 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" PVC threaded nipple, a 1/2" threaded PVC cap, Century Spring Corp spring #C-730 13/32 x 2-3/4" x .047 or comparable and a marble. High tech? No! Does it work? Yes, it works great! It keeps our vacuum where we want it and very steady. Adjustment is simply made by twisting the cap in or out. Now, notch the 1/2" x 1-1/2" nipple (according to detail in Fig. 3) with a knife and screw the unnotched side onto the only threaded tee on the assembly. Tighten this good and snug. Take the PVC cap and drill a 1/2" hole right in the center. Now, to have this hole directly in the center is very important. To achieve this, mark the center with a pencil and then drill a small pilot hole first then drill with a 1/2" bit. Take your marble and insert it in the inside of the cap. "Tap" the marble with a hammer. Don't pound it, just tap it a few times. This seats the marble and the caps. What holds the marble against the cap will be the spring. Insert your spring into the tee and carefully screw on the cap with the marble inside. Do not tighten this all the way. You are done with this now until it is time to test the machine. Since the teat cups are made from PVC that should be the next step.
First you will need to cut your 1-1/4" PVC pipe. You need 2 cut to 4-1/2" each, this length is necessary providing you bought the same inflations we have listed in the material list. If you have different inflations the length might be different. Make your cuts very straight. Deburr all edges. Now take your 1-1/4" PVC slip caps and drill a 7/8" hole through the center of the cap (see diagram Fig. 4). Use a pilot hole as you did with the regulator cap. Glue the caps to the 4 1/2" lengths of PVC. Push the pipe all the way into the cap. Let that set for 10 minutes or so. Now, from the end of the cap, measure up 1" (see Fig. 5) and drill a 5/16" hole in each teat cup. Tap that with a 3/8" N.F. (fine thread) tap (keep the tap perpendicular to the teat cup). Light pipe dope your 90-degree elbow (thread to hose barb) and screw this in. Don't let it cross thread, keep it straight with the hole. Insert your liner (inflation). It is supposed to fit real tight in the bottom hole. Work it over the ridge slowly. That's it. Your teat cups are done.
Now you just have to drill the fittings on the milk bucket (pressure cooker pot). All the work on the bucket is done to the lid. Somewhere on the lid is a round pressure control valve. Unscrew the stem, drill this hole out to 5/8". You will mount your pulsator here. The pulsator adaptor mounts directly on the pot lid (see Fig. 6). You can drill a 1/2" hole and file it out a bit if your drill bits only go to 1/2". You will need three other holes drilled into the lid, two are for attaching your clear 3/8" vacuum hose barbs, the other might be a smaller hole that will be drilled to the same size as your vacuum gauge. If it's 1/4" NPT connections, it will be 17/32". If it's 1/8" NPT connection it will be a 27/64" hole. It all depends on what size fitting is on the gauge you have. Match those accordingly. The other two holes will be drilled out to 17/32". If your drill bits only go to 1/2" you will have to file a little bit. Keep these holes 3" from the center and from each other. Now, if you mess up a hole for whatever reason don't worry about it, just put a short bolt with a couple of rubber washers in it to seal it off and try again. Now, take your straight nylon 1/4" MIP x 3/8" thread to hose barbs, insert threads through the lid from the top, lightly caulk around the fitting at the lid on both sides and install and tighten the backing nut and do the same with your vacuum gauge. Take your brass 3/8" flair plug. This must be drilled out with a 1/4" hole. This plug screws into your pulsator adaptor and holds it to the lid. Insert this plug through your 9/16" washer and from under the lid, push it through and screw on your pulsator adaptor. Don't forget to caulk it. (See Fig. 7) Hook-up your 3/8" x 3/8" x 3/8" plastic tee to your inflations. From there you will be using 4' of your 3/8" clear tubing to milk bucket. Cut two, 4' pieces of your 5/16" tubing and attach these to the barbs outside the teat cups as in the detail (Fig. 5). This tubing goes from there to the pulsator. Cut 3' of 3/8" hose and install this from the milk pot to the nipple at the regulator. The excess tubing will be installed form the vehicle to the assembly. You've just built a Poor Boy Milking Machine.
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Now it's time to test it before you actually use it. What we are trying to do is see if your regulator will regulate the right vacuum. First you will need to plug off your teat cups. Put your automobile in park, or neutral for manual transmissions, apply the parking brake, and keep children away from the idling vehicle. Start your engine and let it warm up. Don't use the machine on fast idle. Now slowly open the ball valve under the hood. Your car will raise rpms and run rough until vacuum is attained at your milk bucket. Look at the gauge. We like to milk at 12 inches of mercury (all of the information I've read states anywhere between 10 and 14 won't harm the animal). If the vacuum is too high, unscrew your regulator some. If it's too low, screw it in some. Sometimes, for whatever reason, on the first try the spring just doesn't apply the correct pressure on the marble, sometimes it does. This might require you to take the spring out and pull and stretch it out a bit (just a bit). Or you might have to cut a couple of revolutions off. In any case you want to do just a little of what it needs and if it needs more, do a little more.
Remember, if you cut too much off or stretch it out too far you will have to buy another spring. If you crank the cap all the way down and you can't generate enough vacuum you have a leak somewhere. With the cap all of the way down the marble is locked between the cap and the nipple. It's sealed. At this point, find the leak and fix it. With the leak fixed try to keep your gauge at 12. If it won't get up to 12, feel the hole on the cap of the regulator (cap being in a mid-range position). If you feel it sucking air you need to pull the spring out and stretch it out as mentioned above. If the vacuum is way up and you can't turn it down then your spring is pushing too hard on the marble and will need to be cut down as mentioned above. Remember, before this is done be sure the regulator cap is screwed into a mid-range position so you will still have adjustment both ways. Keep playing with it until you get it right. We have hook-ups on our 1979 Ford F150-V8, 1989 Ford F350-V8 and my wife's 1981 Caprice V8 with about 20' of 1/2" PVC pipe between the vehicle and the regulator. The 1989 Ford will pull 15, the 1979 will pull 14 and the car pulls 15. Remember, 10-14" of mercury is acceptable for goats according to the goat handbook we have. We milk ours at 12 and have never had any problems. As long as certain procedures are followed you shouldn't have any problems either. Once you get it right you won't have to deal with it again. Make sure your pulsator is pulsating. I've read that anywhere from 40 to 80 pulsations per minute are acceptable. We like 50. Now you are ready to start milking.
Using your "Poor Boy Milk Machine"
There are two critical periods when using a milking machine where the most damage can occur: the beginning and the end. Attaching the machine before milk "let down" has occurred and leaving the machine on after the udder is empty can cause damage. We use clear plastic tubing so you can see exactly what's happening. Below we have listed in order, the steps to machine milking your animal.
1. Start your auto. Keep it in park or neutral, depending on your transmission, apply parking brake and/or wheel chocks.
2. Have your machine on and ready to go.
3. Lock the animal into the stanchion and feed grain, sweet feed or hay.
4. Wipe teats with a warm cloth and wait for "let down," (approximately one minute). Squirt a small amount of milk into the palm of your hand to make sure it looks normal.
5. As soon as "let down" has occurred attach the teat cups (milking should take approximately two minutes per animal for goats) and make sure vacuum is at 12.
6. Monitor the clear hose. The milk goes back and forth but when it stops making headway I gently squeeze the udder together to bring down more milk. When no more milk goes over the arch into the pot, gently break suction and remove teat cups. Hand milk what's left in the udder (about 4 pulls). Sometimes you will have to break vacuum on one teat to clear the line to see what's really in it.
7. Squirt iodine on the teats.
Rinse pot with cold water (milk fat bums very easily) and wash with warm soapy water. Do not submerse the lid. Keep the pulsator and vacuum gauge dry.
Problem: Not enough vacuum
Solution: Check for leaks, check vacuum on vehicle. Remember proper vacuum level will not be achieved until teat cups are attached to the animal. Shorten the length between the vehicle and the machine, check spring on regulator, check marble-to-cap seat. Possible idle rpm's too low on auto. When using more than one claw it might be necessary to increase the idle rpm slightly to achieve the proper cfm. This also may need to be done with smaller automobiles.
Problem: Pulsator not working
Solution: Drill out 3/8" brass plug. Check for leaks.
Problem: Wrong number pulsations
Solution: Adjust according to the manufacturers' directions on your pulsator (the pulsator should come from the factory preset to the proper setting).
Never under any circumstances run your vehicle inside any building you are milking in. Keep exhaust away from the milking area.
Never under any circumstances let your children play in, on, or around your idling vehicle.
Always double check that your vacuum valve is off and the plug on when you unhook your machine.
Do not overfill the pot.
If milk is observed in the clear line between the pot and regulator, immediately shut down the vacuum and dump the pot. The only line that should have milk in it is the line between the teat cups and the pot.
Always allow time for "let down" and always remove the teat cups as soon as the milk stops flowing, then strip out the rest of the milk by hand.
If any signs of pink color (blood) or infection (mastitis) is detected in the milk, stop machine milking this animal and disinfect the teat cups before milking the next animal. Medicate and milk this animal by hand until the problem is cleared up.
We don't use multiple claws. One more probably could be used if shutoffs are used on the hoses. We don't use shut offs at all. When the claw is not attached to the animal the vacuum goes down to 4 or 5 on the gauge but quickly rises back up as soon as it's reattached. Here at HM Ranch we raise dairy bull calves with goat milk. We've also raised several pigs to butcher weight, orphaned goats and a baby donkey who's mother quit feeding her when she was a few days old. She's almost 4 now and very healthy.
We can milk 10 does in about 30 minutes. The way to milk goats quickly is to have a stanchion that is about 7' long with head lock and grain buckets on each end so the does stand tail to tail with about 2' between them. When using this two-goat stanchion, as soon as the machine is hooked to one goat pull the other down and replace it with a fresh goat, wipe down the teats to clean and stimulate "let down" (this must be done quickly). Keep monitoring the milking doe. By the time your milking doe is done, the one you just prepped should be "let down." Just gently break vacuum and pull the teat cups off (support the bag with the other hand), and immediately put it on the other goat. Strip out, disinfect and replace that doe. Now remember, goats milk out in about 2 minutes so you have to work quickly at this method. We do not recommend starting out with the back-to-back method. We are very familiar with our does and have a lot of experience milking by machine. Start slow. The most important thing is not to damage your animal. In almost every case of infection, it's not the machine that does it. Generally it's from using the machine wrong, i.e., wrong procedures, inattention to detail and complacency are generally the causes.
JEFF & KAREN HOARD