Testing for Subclinical Mastitis – Home Tests

There are three ways to “test” for subclinical mastitis at home. [If you suspect subclinical mastitis, you may want to keep the milk from the house supply, it is safe to give to your chickens, dogs, cats, etc.]

1. Milk the doe, keeping her milk separate from the others, strain the milk, chill quickly and then allow to sit untouched in your refrigerator for several days. Make sure your refrigerator is keeping your milk cold enough. A direct quote from Organic Pastures “It is essential to remember that raw milk only tastes fresh if it is kept asleep, that means cold at about 35-38 degrees.” Organic Pastures sells cow’s milk, but this is good information for those of us using goat’s milk.

If the doe has subclinical mastitis, the milk will begin to go “off” by the 4th or 5th day. If I’m doing this test, I usually milk each side of the udder into separate containers to test both sides. If the milk is still good to 7 to 10 days, it is almost certain there is no mastitis involved. Reason being if your doe has subclinical mastitis, she has an infection in her udder, which is sloughing bacteria into the milk. An overabundance of the wrong kind of bacteria will produce an “off” or bad tasting milk. If there are no signs of mastitis in your does, but your milk goes off by 4-5 days, consider that your refrigerator is not keeping the milk cold enough.

2. Another test is to let the milk sit at room temperature for 48 hours, then examine the bottom of the jar. If there is sediment, that could mean subclinical mastitis. It is a good idea to test a healthy sample of milk as well as the suspected milk, for comparison.

3. Finally, a really good way to home test your doe’s milk is to try making buttermilk. Purchase a quart of store bought buttermilk. Place one cup of the doe’s milk in a jar, and add 2 Tablespoons of buttermilk to that. Mix well. Now, let it sit on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours. After twenty four hours, you should have fresh smelling, delicious buttermilk. The texture will be thick and creamy. If instead, you have something that seems slimy, you more than likely have a problem with bacteria – meaning that your doe has subclinical mastitis. (Although it could just be your milking practices are not clean enough and you are ending up with a lot of bacteria in your milk from the milking process).

Click here to return to How to Produce Delicious Goat’s Milk.

#4 Chill the Milk Quickly

4. CHILL THE MILK QUICKLY When we had our first goat in milk in April 2003, we would strain the milk immediately after milking into a jar, then set the warm milk in the freezer to cool. I learned that this was creating *Grade D* milk. As a result, this milk had a shorter shelf life. After five days in the fridge, this milk would start to have an off taste, a slight “goaty” taste to it, and if we made cheese, it would also taste off. I do NOT like the “goaty” taste, and if that is what our goats’ milk tasted like, I would not bother to have them.

We learned that chilling the milk quickly (using a water and alcohol mixture) ensures the milk will last from seven to ten days (and sometimes a few days longer) with a fresh delicious taste to it. When we weren’t chilling it properly and it came time to make cheese on the weekend I had to taste test every single jar to make sure none were tasting like store bought cow’s milk yet (because that is how it tastes first before tasting “goaty” in my experience) before I could even start making cheese.

Nowadays we try to freeze the milk within 12-24 hours if we aren’t planning to make cheese, so we don’t have to taste test as much. I code the bags with the date , as well as how long until the milk was frozen. (Sometimes I don’t get the milk into the freezer for three days, so the shelf life would be shorter on that bag, than one that was frozen 12 hours after it came from the goat).

We keep a three gallon plastic bucket in the freezer, mixed with part alcohol and part water. The ratio is approximately 1/2 part water and 1/2 part alcohol. The mixture should be slushy. If the ice is frozen very hard, you need more alcohol. If it does not turn to slush, you need to add water. The way it works is it pulls the heat from the jar of milk. I like to shake the milk jar gently to move the milk around in the jar so it gets colder faster. I did a test once on how quickly the milk chills using this mixture. The “slush” registered at 5°F. I put 3 pounds of milk in a half gallon jar. The temperature of the milk was at 89°F. When twenty minutes had passed, the temperature of the milk was down to 37°F.

I read someplace, sometime that the “goal” is to lower the temperature of the milk to under 40°F within 20 minutes of leaving the udder. That is supposedly to make “Grade A” milk.

Click here to return to How to Produce Delicious Goat’s Milk.

How to Produce Delicious Goat’s Milk

I’m here to tell you that goat’s milk can taste delicious. Milk is very delicate, and must be handled carefully in order to produce a wonderful tasting product. We prefer to drink our milk raw, as God intended. We have had goats since Feb. 2003, and have been milking them since April 2003. We have learned a lot in that time.

Goat milk should NOT taste goaty! When I tell people that we raise goats for their milk I usually get to hear a story from their childhood about how bad goat’s milk tastes, or that they had to drink some with a hair in it, or how it stunk; basically that it’s much different than cow’s milk. We have not experienced this with our milk once we learned to handle it properly (which will prevent the off or “goaty” taste).

There are several things that can cause goat’s milk to have a “goaty” or “off” taste, please see additional comments below the list for more information:

  1. Housing the bucks with the does, or too close to the does can cause the milk to taste “goaty” (that “cologne” scent is STRONG and the does love it).
  2. If any debris/hair drops into the milk while milking; this can cause an “off” taste.
  3. All items that come in contact with the milk need to be sterilized regularly as bacteria can cause an “off” taste; this means the pail, the strainer, the jars that hold the milk, etc.
  4. The milk needs to be chilled quickly, and kept very cold, in order to be kept “asleep”, this means cold at about 35-38 degrees.
  5. The doe could be ill, or have subclinical mastitis.
  6. Sometimes if the doe is out of balance mineral-wise, her milk can taste bad or off.
  7. Something the doe has eaten can cause bad tasting milk (weeds or some types of plants).
  8. And lastly, apparently some doe’s milk just doesn’t taste very good. Also freshly kidded does’ milk doesn’t taste “right” for a couple of weeks after freshening.
  9. Cobalt deficiency can cause your doe’s milk to taste “off”.

1. HOUSING THE BUCKS WITH DOES We do not let our bucks run with our does, as we prefer to plan for the births. Even though we live in Arizona, and have mild winters, we prefer to have our does kidding in March or April. This means that we breed our does in October or November. Our bucks are separated from the does by a four foot walkway, and although the bucks are fairly close to the does, we do not experience “off” tastes.

2. DEBRIS OR HAIR IN THE MILK We use unscented baby wipes to clean the doe’s udders and teats, and also wipe their belly to make sure there is no stray hay or hairs stuck there. Interestingly enough, milk foams up when hand milking. It almost seems that while designing goats for milking, the big guy upstairs took debris falling into the milk, into consideration and decided to have the milk foam up. This usually catches any stray hair or piece of hay that happens to drop into the bucket.

3. STERILIZE ALL MILKING EQUIPMENT REGULARLY We wash our milking equipment with soap and hot water daily, and let it air dry. Every week or so, we bathe the items in hot water, with some bleach added to the water. Hydrogen peroxide can also be used.

4. CHILL THE MILK QUICKLY Click on the link for more details.

5. SUBCLINICAL MASTITIS With regards to mastitis, you can test your milk for mastitis by using either a purchased kit, CMT (California Mastitis Test Kit) from someplace such as Jeffers, Caprine Supply, or Hoegger’s Goat Supply OR you can make a homemade solution which will cost little to make, and last a very long time. Click here for the homemade mastitis recipe.

Subclinical mastitis does not show up when using the above tests. You should notice some difference in the doe’s udder if she has subclinical mastitis. Mainly her milk supply will have dropped (in our experience). This is why we always keep barn records on the amounts that our does produce. A drop in production can indicate that she is not feeling well, could have mastitis, isn’t getting enough good quality hay, or is in heat, just to name a few. You can test for subclinical mastitis by sending a sample of the milk to a laboratory, or try a home test can be accomplished in about as much time, and will cost less. You will not know exactly which bacteria you are dealing with by doing the “home test” but you will know that there is a problem and then you will want to go on to laboratory testing.


MILK TESTING THROUGH A LABORATORY Click on the link for more details.

9. COBALT (VITAMIN B) DEFICIENCY can cause the milk to taste “off” or “goaty”. Irene Ramsay was the one to tell me about testing the doe for cobalt deficiency by using standard baker’s yeast. Not the fast rising type. Or you can use brewer’s yeast. We use 1 Tablespoon each day for seven days to challenge. If the milk begins to taste good, you can rest assured it is a cobalt deficiency. After the seven days, cut the dose down to 1 teaspoon each day. If we miss two days, our milk begins to taste “off”. I have not yet found a source of cobalt that would be easier to use. Right now I give each doe 1 teaspoon of yeast daily, mixed with peanut butter, on a cracker. There are sources of cobalt that could be added to the water.

Here is an article from Irene Ramsay with natural ways for treating mastitis, if you are hesitant to treat with antibiotics (we are). Some of these natural treatments are quite successful and it is good to know about them.

You can learn more about the benefits of raw milk at realmilk.org and The Weston A. Price Foundation.

Here is an article in support of raw milk.

Originally written August 29, 2005

Remedying Copper Deficiency with Copper Sulfate

Irene Ramsay suggests making a 1% solution of copper sulfate:

“1 tablespoonful of crystals/powder to 3 litres of water makes a 1% solution. [U.S. Conversion = 1 tablespoon of crystals to 12 & 3/4 cups water] I always dissolve it in about half a litre of hot water, then add the rest, ‘cos it dissolves faster in hot water. Store in food grade plastic containers and be careful to label them Copper & Poison. I use plastic milk bottles or fruit juice bottles.”

Treatment as follows:

“Reason for my 1% solutions of copper and cobalt is that I’ve lived in areas marginal for these, but not completely deficient, so bolusing with copper would have been dangerous, IMO – I’ve had to deal with copper poisoning from ill-administered copper supplements. The 1% copper sulfate solution is given at a dose rate of 20 mls twice daily per adult dairy goat for 7 days. Rest 7 days, repeat 7 days, rest 2 weeks, repeat at half dose 7 days. This won’t poison them, and should be enough to bring them up to the level where the maintenance amount of copper in your mineral mix will keep them where they should be. The solution may have to be repeated if you have a long drought. Alternatively, when they are just starting to have that ‘look’ but aren’t actually sick with deficiency, you can add 2 mls of solution to each gallon of drinking water for a week, alternate weeks, for 4-6 weeks. “

“Copper is highly toxic if not needed, as it’s stored in the liver, and can cause severe liver damage if it’s not required. It is safe to treat for copper deficiency after the first month of pregnancy – I wouldn’t risk it earlier because it’s something no-one’s quite sure about, and why find out the hard way? Keep careful records while you do this, so you don’t overdose. Because dealing with copper poisoning is much harder than dealing with copper deficiency.”

I wanted to show some pictures of the copper sulfate that we purchased. It is the *right* stuff, despite all the dire warnings on the label. Click on the label pictures to see a much larger version which you can easily read.

Here is what the crystals look like:

Front label of the container:

Back label of the container:

Go here to read how to supply copper with Copasure Bolus.

Click here for all the Wisdom of Irene Ramsay articles

Irene asked that I include her email address for anyone that has queries. Her email address is shown below in an image, you may also use this contact form.

Click here for all the Wisdom of Irene Ramsay articles

Irene asked that I include her email address for anyone that has queries. Her email address is shown below in an image, you may also use this contact form.

I am acquainted with Irene Ramsay through the Holistic Goats list on Yahoo Groups. I read all of her posts as they are always full of wisdom and natural remedies for healing. I am honored that Irene Ramsay has agreed to allow me to publish some of her articles on my website. I hope they will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. Thanks, Irene! Please note that Irene lives in New Zealand and sometimes the items she recommends won’t be available in the US under the same name. Copyright 1974-2020 Irene Ramsay. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy without express permission of the author. Thank you. Please note that Irene lives in New Zealand and sometimes the items she recommends won’t be available in the US under the same name.

Remedying Copper Deficiency with Copasure Bolus

Goats need a lot of copper, and the ones living in Arizona tend to be deficient. One of the most popular ways of administering extra copper is bolusing. Pat Coleby followers like to use Copper Sulfate which you can find at Home Depot or any type store along the same line. It is commonly used as root killer. I know many folks use it straight and their goats eat the blue crystals greedily, but I am 1) uncomfortable with this and 2) have actually offered the crystals to the goats and they won’t have anything to do with them.

Irene Ramsay has a method where she uses the Copper Sulfate diluted with water, and drenches the goats for a number of days. Eventually I plan to detail that method here.

In the meantime, we have been using Copasure for our copper supplement. See below for pictures which indicate copper deficiency in one of our does.

I have to say it’s my least favorite chore when it comes to the goats (yes, even disbudding since that’s only ONE time in their lives, lasts about 2 minutes total and you’re done forever!). They hate swallowing the boluses, they fight me and spit them out, chew them — it’s just a very physical job which I dread. Sometimes I get lucky on the second try and down it goes. More often than not I end up trying more times and sometimes have to use a second bolus (prepared especially for this possibility). I’ve yet to get the bolus into them on the first try. Once I even thought I had the bolus into our herd sire and went all the way into the house only to discover the bolus was STILL in the drenching gun!!

The Saanendoah site has a huge amount of information with regard to copper deficiency, you will definitely want to read more about it there.

The copper rods lose their effect after 4-5 months, so bolusing should technically be done at least every five months.

Here are the supplies we use for copper bolusing:

Copasure Bolus 12.5gm

As you can see, the bolus is very close to the size of a AA battery. Just about the same diameter and a bit shorter.

We purchased ours from Valley Vet $30.95 plus $5.00 handling (if your order is under $50), free shipping, no tax for Arizona. This container included a black nipple which holds the bolus so you can administer it with a drenching gun.

Image shows the drench gun tip with the black nipple attached and the bolus inserted into the black nipple.

Drench Gun

From Valley Vet. We bought this drenching gun to administer fluids and other medicines. $11.99.

“13” Gelatin Caps

From Valley Vet. 100 capsules in the pack. $12.15.

Item 17377. Gelatin Capsules
1 1/4″X1/2″ 1/8 oz

“000” Gelatin Caps

Found these at www.iherb.com. We bought some smaller caps for the smaller goats. We have one Nigerian Dwarf buck and I can’t imagine trying to get him to swallow the “13” capsules. $10.00 for 200 capsules, plus $4.00 s/h. If you find a better deal, let me know so I can post it here!

Postage Hanging Scale

I found this one on eBay $4.95 with free shipping on a Buy It Now auction. It weighs up to 100 grams, but of course I need it for weighing much less. Try using these keywords at eBay:

hanging pocket scale gram -digital

In the beginning we broke open the 12.5 gram bolus of Copasure, lined up the rods and divided them up into portions which we thought were appropriate. The dosing amount is 1 gram rods per 22 pounds of goat. So one of our does needed 6 grams Copasure. Take a bolus, open it and dump it out into a line. Divide the line of rods into half. Scoop that half back into the empty capsule. Cap it. Another of our does needs 8 grams Copasure, so I split the line of rods into 3 portions. Scooped 2 portions back into the empty capsule.

Also here are some measurements using smaller sized gelcaps:

4g – for 80-90# animals (Fill large half of #000 cap full, plus pinch or two in small half)
3.125g – for 60-70# animals (Fill large half of #000 cap to 1/8″ below top)
2.5g – for 50# animals (Fill large half of #00 cap)
2.08g – for 40-45# animals (Fill to 3/8″ below top of large half of #00 cap)
1.78g – for 35-40# animals (Fill to very top of large half of #0 cap)
1.56g – for 30-35# animals (Fill almost to top of large half of #0 cap)
1.25g – for 20-30# animals (Fill to top of large half of #1 cap)
.78g – for 15-20# animals (Fill to 1/4″ below top of large half of #1 cap)
.63g – for 10-15# animals (Fill almost to top of large half of #3 cap)

I finally decided for $5.00 I’d invest in a gram scale.

Find out how much each goat needs by taking a tape measure of the “heart girth” of the goat. Fiasco Farm gives a chart and explanation of how to take the measurement.

So you find your goat weighs 100 pounds. Take 100 and divide it by 22, which gives you 4.5 grams of rods for this goat. A 150 pound goat would need 6.8 grams (you can just round that up to 7 grams). I make up the boluses, write the goat’s name on a sandwich bag so I don’t lose track of which bolus belongs to who. I wonder how many hits I’m going to get on this page with people looking for ways to weigh and store illegal drugs with all this talk of baggies and grams and such? :-&

As I mentioned earlier, you may want to make up at least two boluses per goat, as they will fight and spit out the boluses. After one or two times spitting them out, I just rinse them off and try to get them back down into the goat, but after 3-4 times of trying the capsule begins to disintegrate and you have to use a new one. In the past, I only made up one bolus and ended up going all the way back into the house to make up a new one.

The bolus begins to disintegrate if you are using the drenching gun, as you are sucking up some water into the gun first, then putting the capsule in place. The theory is that when you squeeze the water into the goat’s mouth, they automatically swallow and then the capsule goes right down, easy! NOT. At least not for me, usually. According to the Saanendoah site I mentioned above, you should not allow the goats to chew the rods if you can help it. They may break open a capsule and you will have no choice in the matter, but don’t get the idea you can top-dress their daily ration as this will alter the rods (I take this would not be a good thing).

I suppose if your goat has a favorite treat that you know they swallow whole, you could bury the rods in that. One person mentioned dosing up a marshmallow. Another claims she pours the rods into corn syrup in a syringe and the goats suck it right down.

I hope this has helped you with using the Copasure bolus.


This doe is black with white spots. You can see the hair on her flank is beginning to fade and turn reddish. Once she receives copper, the hair will turn black like the rest of her.

Also, another indicator of low copper is the tail begins to lose the hair at the tip. The hair splits out away from the bald spot.

Here is a picture of one of our does that had faded hair on the flank.

Originally written 6-13-05


We are also going to be disbudding our own kids this year,” I so casually said in Dallas’ 2005 kidding story. I’m here to tell you it’s much easier said than done!

That said, yesterday I learned how to disbud kids, thank you to a lesson from Danni Ackerman of Mighty Oak Farm.

On Sunday the 20th, we were all ready to go. We had built the kidding box, had the iron heated, had the kid in the box – who was standing there so innocently and patiently waiting for whatever the people had in store for him… and could not follow through. I’d seen five kids disbudded, two of our own, but I was unable to press the hot iron to the kid’s head.

I keep reading that you have to do the disbudding before the kids are 10 days old, but I’ve learned since that this applies to other types of goats, we are raising Nubians and there is a larger window of opportunity. See Irene Ramsay’s range of dates here. At any rate, I was a nervous wreck, worrying about getting the bucklings done. The next day I called a lady we’d gotten some ram lambs from, and she recommended her next door neighbor. We took the bucklings to have them disbudded that day.

I was still interested in learning how to disbud our doelings myself, so I started e-mailing some goat people to see if someone could give me a lesson.

When I arrived at Danni’s, there would be a short delay as one of her yearling does was in labor, and just beginning to push. She pushed out two tiny doelings (okay, tiny in comparison to the *horses* our does delivered) within a half hour of my arrival.

Danni then proceeded to disbud 7 or 8 kids. Her daughter was present and expressed a desire to try disbudding for the first time. I have to say I think this helped me to see her first time experience, feeling, “Hey, if she can do it, and it’s her first time, then I should be able to.”

Danni let me “practice” on one of her meat wether kids, whose horns were quite visible and about 1/2″ in height. I managed to disbud him properly, and then moved on to disbud first Zoë and then Moselle. We all survived the experience.

I learned that our disbudding box was an issue in our initial failure. I chose the wooden type headpiece, and the kidding box building instructions allowed too big of a hole for the head. I will purchase the aluminum headpiece, as shown here. This one works much more efficiently as the kid is not able to withdraw its head back into the box, hah. Well, our kidding box didn’t actually allow the entire head to move back, but it did not restrict the kid properly.

I also paid close attention to the way I held the kid’s head, being careful not to cover the nose and smother, which Irene Ramsay says in her disbudding article can cause the kid to panic and wriggle harder. [See Step 14]

There are apparently many different methods for disbudding, as many different ways to do as there are ways to raise goats.

With our first kid’s disbudding in 2003, the operator burned around the hornbud, then scraped the “cap” off with a butter knife. She put a syringeful of hydrogen peroxide on the burn, then proceeded to burn another time. She finished with a spray of Blu-Kote.

With our second kid’s disbudding in 2004, the operator burned around the hornbud, then took a very sharp knife/box cutter (maybe an exacto knife) and sliced off the hornbud, she burned again, then finished with a spray of Fural Spray.

The lady who disbudded our buckling kids earlier this year used a low wattage iron to burn, and scraped the hornbud off with the disbudding iron. The second kid’s disbudding was done immediately following the first, and his disbudding was not successful as he is growing scurs.

Some articles say you have to look for the copper ring, others say to look for a white ring. I think the copper ring is the skin (leather) being burned, if you get a white ring, you are down to the skull. (I think!) Most US breeders prefer the biggest, heaviest, most expensive disbudding iron you can buy, while Irene Ramsay prefers a much lower wattage disbudding iron. Some articles say to count a slow five, some say count to ten.

Yesterday, Danni’s method was to burn for a count of slow ten and find the copper ring. If the hornbuds are fairly prominent, she pulls off the cap totally. But she does not cut off the hornbud. She says it will disappear eventually. With our doelings, she did not have me pull off the caps, as the hornbuds were still on the small side. Danni finishes the job with a spray of Fight Bac, a teat spray that chills the wound.

I guess you will probably find variation in every person’s disbudding method. Good luck!

Here are some articles on disbudding that I found to be helpful:

Irene Ramsay’s Disbudding

Fiasco Farms Disbudding

Notes from 2006 disbuddings

This year I had to disbud 8 kids. I learned some more things.

1) Dallas’ doeling born March 9. Her disbudding is okay. I disbudded her on March 20th, 11 days old.

2) Zoë’s buckling kids born April 3rd. One of Zoë’s bucklings (the black and white one) seemed ready to disbud by 2 to 3 days old. I did not have a disbudding box and had to wait for my dh to find the time to build me another one. Finally, when the buckling was 14 days old, I was able to disbud him. In 2004, the lady that disbudded our kids refuses to disbud until kids are 14 days old. So I thought it would be okay to do him that far along. As it turns out, that was much too late. For one thing, the disbudding iron tip was too narrow. He now has one normal looking horn growing, and scurs on the other side. Since he is scheduled for the freezer, I did not put him through another round of disbudding.

Zoë’s other buckling kid was still not ready for disbudding on Wednesday April 19th, and I had not done him by Friday April 21st, (18 days old) according to emails I wrote to Holistic Goats. We bred Zoë to our polled Nigerian Dwarf buck, so I wondered if he was polled. I must have disbudded him that weekend, because emails to Arizona Goats state he is disbudded on May 12th. Even though he was done after 18 days of age, his disbudding worked great. His hornbuds were narrower than his brothers.

3) Brooke’s doeling triplets were born on April 7th. We placed one kid with a friend the day after she was born. I disbudded The Brooklings on Wednesday, April 19th, they were twelve days old. Their disbudding was successful.

4) Lightning’s buckling kid was born April 26th. I apparently did Lightning’s buckling too late also, and the disbudding iron tip was too narrow for his hornbuds. He was disbudded on May 7th, at 10 days of age.

5) Moselle’s doeling and buckling were born on May 27th. I disbudded them on Saturday June 3rd, they were 8 days old. It was perfect for the buckling, but it was too soon for the doeling. Actually, one side worked but the other side she began growing a perfect horn. I debated doing her that day, as her hornbuds were BARELY present. Irene says if you do the disbudding too soon, it might not work. In this case, it did not work out.

I finally realized on July 8th that the horn was growing and getting larger. My disbudding iron tip was again, too narrow. So I borrowed one from my neighbor, she has several different sizes. I disbudded Cocoa for the second time on July 10th. I used a wider tip and I scraped the hornbud off. There was a hard little knob left sticking up. I noticed today July 30, that she had knocked off the scab from her head and the little knob is gone. It looks like her disbudding will be successful this time.

Originally written March 28, 2005 with note from Spring 2006