From responses I got to the post on our new goat milker, as well as personal correspondence, it's clear that there is a real need for a low cost, low-ish tech, off-grid compatible alternative to hand milking goats. While there are a variety of options you can buy online, most are expensive - more expensive than they need to be.
Not only that, but most of us are makers and aren't looking for an off the shelf solution. We don't just want to buy, we want to build, tweak and understand. So here I am following up with my parts list, some pictures of how I assembled it, and most importantly, suggestions for things to try if you want to build up or down from my model. My husband David builds things heavy, solid and indestructible. He likes to reinvent the wheel, so he kept trying to introduce innovations like "let's build a special jar to go with this".
I'm more the quick and dirty improviser. If Mason jars work pretty well, I don't want to go looking for something better. If I already have an item or know where to buy it nearby, I'm apt to go with that instead of searching out or creating something new, even if it's substantially better. You may fall somewhere within this spectrum, or have your own design approach. I just want you to think about how this works and give it a try!
Our beginning parts list:
|Everything but a jar and a goat|
2 x 3/8" IDx 1/4"MIP nylon hose barb/MIP adaptor - from the plumbing aisle of the hardware store
|It might be in one of these baggies|
I could only find brass but I have to believe they have nylon ones somewhere.
Anyway it's fun to ask the guy at the shop if he has brass nuts.
4' of 1/4" ID (inner diameter) 3/8" OD tubing - elsewhere in the hardware store in a special area that sold tubing. Tubing is really cheap. Buy extra if you want to experiment. Also consider buying 1' of 3/8 ID tubing, which you can slide over the smaller tubing to help it fit onto bigger fixtures.
|Two kinds of tubing and brass nuts|
1 x 1/4" barbed T which I got at an aquarium supply store but also probably available at a hardware store
1 x Mason Jar lid and Screw Band
1 x mason jar (not pictured. I am just not photographer enough to try and get a good picture of one. Clear stuff!) anyway you probably know what they look like. It needs to be the same mouth size as your lid.
2 x 60 cc tapered tip syringes from a larger feed supply store (big epoxy paint supply stores may also sell these)
1 x Manual vacuum pump which we ordered online but may be available from an auto parts store as a brake bleeding pump. Ours is already hose clamped onto a length of tubing, and I left it that way for the picture.
1 x 1/4" to 1/2" hose clamp, which turned out to be overkill (it's holding the stem of this pump onto the tube. It would only be needed if you planned to be very rough with your milker. Like swing it around your head rough.)
2 x clamp on valves, from an aquarium supply store. We never actually use these. They came from an aquarium store.
Now milk is flowing. If your pump has a gauge, pump to10 and then let it coast down to 6 or 7 and then pump a bit more. If you don't, pump till milk is flowing strongly, then rest till it slows down, etc. When the flow begins to slow even at pressure, stop pumping, let the milk continue to trickle a bit, then break the suction by gently squeezing one teat to let air into the cup. The two cups will fall off. Spray the teats and you're done.
Now - to improvising.
I experimented with a setup without the nuts and barbs. I used a large nail to punch holes in the lid of a jar, and then just stuck two pieces of aquarium tubing into the holes so they fit tightly. When we pumped, it created a vacuum and milked the goat. It was pretty flimsy. Eventually the lid will deform too much to form a seal but so what? A lid might cost twenty cents, so if it only lasts a few months before I need a new one, I'm still doing OK. I could probably reuse lids from canned goods, which you aren't supposed to can with a second time anyway.
I was an idiot not to use Tattler canning jar lids right from the start.
These are heavy, solid plastic lids with rubber gaskets, designed for repeated canning use. Their rigidity makes them perfect in this application. Buy a box of them and can with the rest.
I'm sure there are other things you can tinker with. Today I tried using Turkey Basters as teat cups. This would eliminate one of the specialty shopping trips from the process.
The basters worked reasonably well but are too long and narrow - they made attaching the milking arrangement a bit too awkward.
If anyone wants, I will happily ship you the assembled lid and teat cup part of this system (everything but the pump, the jar and the goat) for a very reasonable fee - contact me! But as much as I'd like the business, I secretly hope you don't take me up on it. I want you to really own this system, and that means owning the process of making it.
April 28 update to this story. We have had trouble with some of our milkers and heard from others who have the same problem.
If you did everything as directed and it's not working, try using the assembly without the barbs. Stick the ends of the tubes in hot water and squeeze them through the holes in a mason jar lid. If this works, it means you may have a bad fitting hose barb.
Apparently not all Nylon Hose Barbs are created equal. You need to find one with a 5/8" or wider hex nut. This won't be written anywhere on the package, you have to measure. I don't think it's a specification for the hardware as it wouldn't matter in most applications but the extra width is what seals it tightly to the jar. If you can only find the narrower ones you might want to experiement with silicone caulking them around the top. Choose a food grade caulk. Let it dry and wash well before use.
We've also had better luck with Brass than with Nylon nuts but I don't know if that is because we used the narrower barbs with the nylon nuts.By the time we figured out the barb problem we had used up all the nylon nuts.
One more error, I did not fully describe the barb. I'm going to write out everything on the package:
WATTS Nylon hose barb
Adapter 3/8" ID x 1/4" MIP
10 mm x 8 mm
I found this by trial and error. If you have other products that worked I'd love you to share!!
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