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Prepare an Udder Like A Pro

I’ve got something BRAND new for you if you’re a new farmer… or even within the first few years of business.

Be sure to listen to my new podcast “25 Steps to Start and Setup Your Farm Business.”

#001: 25 Steps You Need to Start Your Farm Business (Part 1)

If someone had given me this list when I started over 10 years ago, my raw milk dairy would have been profitable sooo much sooner!

Now – let’s dive in to preparing an udder for milking.

I know you face a big learning curve in many areas of the US when you decide to get a milk cow and produce raw milk for your family and maybe others, too.

There is no “Milking University” or “Producer Preschool” to answer even the most basic questions.

Come inside our barn in this short video answering some of the most common questions I get asked. Β Please view it and then share with me what you learned and what other questions you have. This is your place to connect with other producers as well!


Now it’s your turn!! Please leave a comment below sharing questions and what you learned, and forward this to everyone you know who’s milking a cow or has mentioned they might want to get one.

Thank you for watching and sharing your day with me!



{ 76 comments… add one }
  • kate June 13, 2013, 7:23 pm

    Super helpful Charlotte, well done. Yep, going to make a number of changes. You made the point well– no water. I’ve been washing and drying and I see your rationale for not introducing water to the whole procedure, unless necessary of course. Thanks.

    I’d also love to see your stanchion setup. What are your girls standing on? It looks like a goat stanchion, is it? My jerseys are small and looks like yours are as well.

    Thanks for doing the video and sharing what you’ve learned! –Kate

  • Janell June 13, 2013, 7:58 pm

    Any advice for hand-milkers as far as sanitation steps?

    • thecatzpajamas June 13, 2013, 8:42 pm

      I second this request! πŸ™‚

  • MamaCassi June 13, 2013, 8:08 pm

    LOVED this video! i have a great resource in a local raw jersey dairy farm that is moving and we’re considering a family cow. I know of people who just do the soap wash, and others who have an iodine spray and this helped me understand the entire process and the reasons for each step.

    in my years of working to access and support raw milk farmers, i know a lot, but the nitty-gritty for a family cow is brilliant.

    thank you!

    • Charlotte Smith June 13, 2013, 8:34 pm

      Thank you, MamaCassi!! Best of luck with your cow endeavors!! Keep watching for more tips πŸ™‚

  • FoxDogFarm June 13, 2013, 8:38 pm

    Great video! I appreciate that you showed milking a clean cow, and a dirty cow. I currently milk about 4 to 5 Nigerian Dwarf Goats (for home use only) and am very interested in improving my milking practices. This video gives me another perspective from which to learn!

  • Stephanie June 13, 2013, 8:40 pm

    I’d also love sanitation instructions for handmilking. We ave a milk goat.
    I’m also interested in the why of an iodine based cleaner.

    Love your stanchion set up. Will you do a video showing the set up and how the cow gets in and out?

    Thank you,

    • Charlotte Smith June 15, 2013, 2:13 am

      Yes I will do this!! Lots of requests πŸ™‚ we built it – it’s very basic and rustic.

  • Heather June 13, 2013, 8:53 pm

    I wish we could get one, maybe In the future when we have our own place. Do you k ow a good place to buy raw milk in the Cannon Beach/Seaside/Astoria area? I would even be willing to drive a ways to get it.

    • Charlotte Smith June 15, 2013, 2:12 am

      Heather, check to see if there’s any in your area. I don’t know of any – I know people who drive from Lincoln City into our area to buy milk.

      • Heather June 19, 2013, 5:24 pm

        Where are you located?

        • Charlotte Smith June 19, 2013, 5:26 pm

          We are in St. Paul, Oregon, about 25 mins. SW of Portland.

  • mark mcAfee June 13, 2013, 9:36 pm

    Wonderful excellent. RAWMI ALL star!!

    If only everyone that milks a cow for raw milk would follow your lead!


  • Kim June 13, 2013, 10:13 pm

    Great video!! We’ve been milking our Tillymook (Jersey) since last October. I sure wish I could have seen this beforehand! What a chore we’ve made it. We’ve been using water and washing the entire bag (and drying it), but I haven’t been very comfortable with that. Now I know why. Starting tomorrow morning, that will change, so thank you for doing this video! I look forward to more posts from you. πŸ™‚

  • jerome rosa June 14, 2013, 12:09 am

    When the teats are wiped with the paper towel you should also wipe the end of the teat orfice with your fore finger.If this step is missed the sides of the teat can be completely clean but the most important part, the teat end can still be dirty.If the teat end is even slightly dirty the suction of the claw can infuse the teat with fecal matter.This is a major cause of both E coli an streptocaucas mastitis.

  • nadine June 14, 2013, 12:19 am


  • Tina June 14, 2013, 1:45 am

    Great video! I have no animals and have no experience milking cows (or anything else) Just a curious onlooker researching the health benefits of raw milk. Thank you for that!!

  • Shawna Bar June 14, 2013, 7:45 pm

    Excellent! We were told by a dairy inspector about the little-to-no water trick. It was counter-intuitive at first, but makes sense now.

    Our cows come into a holding stall first where we examine them prior to entering the milking parlor. If one of them is super messy (like she decided to take her nap in a fresh manure pile) we work on her with a curry comb a little before she comes in. Once in the stanchion though, we focus on the teat, make it very clean, and leave the rest a lone.

    I too have stanchion envy. πŸ™‚

  • kate June 15, 2013, 1:28 am

    Having a clip on light right there where you most need to see is also a really good idea, taking that one too… Thanks.

    Tried your technique this morning and think this is a better way to go than using soapy water when she’s not that dirty. Yes, it’s sort of counter intuitive but I think your technique works better than what I was doing before.

    And Jerome, I’m going to try what you are pointing out– about taking extra care with the end of the teat and cleaning here especially well. Thanks for that as well.

    Charlotte if you’ve got a link to where you got your stanchion, love to see it. Thanks, Kate

    • Charlotte Smith June 15, 2013, 2:08 am

      Kate – we built the stanchion from scratch. Can’t remember if you’ve been to our barn… or are you close? We’ve had people come take pics and measurements. I’ll do a video someday. What’s important is to build what works in your barn. I like that it’s up off the ground about 18″ – that was important to me – lots more visibility.

      • Diane April 17, 2015, 1:26 am

        I too am interested in pics and measurements of the stanchion. i am a novice with two cows….seems like i’ll feel more protected.

  • Dusty June 15, 2013, 6:38 pm

    I like what i saw and have only one question. I worry about using the teat dip with iodine before milking. we always used the teat dip after milking. I know of an iodine pre wash solution even but it worries me that not all the iodine is getting cleaned off prior to milking. In fact i just read a report on iodine contamination in milk bulk tanks. I make my own pre wash using a little bit of iodine, not near what the teat dip is at 2% to 5%. We use an alcohol wipe on the orofice, and we have been washing the entire udder and drying carefully. we brush the cows off prior to cleaning as well. Our coliform counts come back under 2.
    I would very much like a video on cleaning of the milking machine. We use 5 rinses, one with vinegar and one with a teaspoon of bleach. I have been told that brushing the lines out in fact introduces bacteria into the milk lines, but i have always been of the elbow grease is the beast cleaner theory.What do you do? Thanks for you helping out all us raw milkers.

    • Charlotte Smith June 16, 2013, 1:18 pm

      oops, Dusty, I replied down below (instead of hitting reply to your comment) Have a great day!!

  • Charlotte Smith June 16, 2013, 1:17 pm

    Hi Dusty, the benefits of using teat dip far outweigh any risks. There has been lots of research on the efficacy of iodine based teat dip pre- and post- milking. If you do it like I show in the video, wipe off with paper towel, you will not detect any in the milk.

    You can google some of this research, especially by UC Davis, to learn further.

    It’s especially helpful in preventing Staph Aureus – an antibiotic resistant staph infection which is all too common around this area in micro-dairies. Producers who test for the first time are often shocked to find it and then have to get rid of the cow, usually.

    Thanks for the request to clean the machine – I’ll do a video of this, too!! I do not use brushes – just the proper dilution of dairy cleaners and sanitizers. I do not use a brush, either – my pipeline is 3 feet long πŸ™‚

    See you back on here soon πŸ™‚

    • dusty July 15, 2013, 10:07 am

      wow, you don’t use brushes! now I am really curious about your cleaning routine. Do you use the dairy bleach powder and sanitizer with the 7 day sanitizers? we have tried to be as organic as possible but have had one person in our group question the brushes. We now sanitize the brushes after every cleaning. Are you organic? We have 5 foot hoses and use the Giles brush cleaning kit. I am anxious for the local college to get the milk test equipment so it is easier to test our milk. thanks so much for doing this, our entire food club follows this

  • Jude June 19, 2013, 2:10 am

    What is the concentration of iodine sol’n you are using. Is it full strength, or do you mix it?

    what is the % of iodine in the gallon jug you show in the video.

    Thanks a lot.

    • Charlotte Smith June 22, 2013, 5:17 pm

      Hi Jude – I use 1% iodine and straight out of the jug – not diluted. Many studies have been done to prove efficacy at this strength. Also, our cows’ udders and teats are all very healthy looking – some people worry the teat dip dries the skin, but the dilution is just right – no chapping or cracking.

  • wendi July 6, 2013, 8:30 pm

    Would it not be advisable to keep the chronically dirty cow’s udder clipped?
    Does not even cleaning off such dirty teats and the dirty area around them with the same rag for several teats not introduce dirt into the teat area? I see someone already addressed the end of teat issue.

  • Tammy August 10, 2013, 11:52 pm

    We have our first milk cow, well heifer, who is due to calf this October. Glad I found this site. We also live in NW Oregon. Would love to come see your set up. Also, where do you send in milk samples. We have milked goats for years, but have never tested any of our milk. For some weird reason having a cow has made me think of how safe our milk is more the I ever thought about it from our goats.

    • Charlotte Smith August 11, 2013, 9:05 am

      Hi Tammy, we test our milk through our local vet and Udder Health Systems in Bellingham Washington which you can Google and contact them for test vials and instructions. Best of luck milking your cow!

  • Dayna August 11, 2013, 10:12 pm

    Love the video!!! We were at your seminar back in Feb. at your house and we learned SO much…we bought our Brown Swiss in May and have taken everything we have learned from you and Tim to heart! You guys are great teachers πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Charlotte Smith September 3, 2013, 4:47 pm

      Thank you!! and we are going to see you next weekend, Saturday, I think?? Take care!!

  • April McGinley August 28, 2013, 5:11 pm

    I just read to wash the teats off with 1/2 gallon of water with 1 tsp teat dip in it before milking. Because the teat dip is toxic and will still sanitize at this ratio.

    • Charlotte Smith September 3, 2013, 4:46 pm


      the 1% dilution teat dip comes in is exactly what’s necessary for sanitizing the teats before/after milking. Diluting it in 1/2 gallon water will not serve the purpose teat dip is supposed to serve. But your ‘check’ is your test results – if you’re doing them every 3-4 weeks and you have a history of a year or more and your standard plate count and coliform counts are within reason, then this may be working for you.

      Thanks for your comment!


  • Nick September 3, 2013, 4:37 pm

    Do you wash your hands after cleaning off the dirty cow before you attach the milking machine?

    • Charlotte Smith September 3, 2013, 4:44 pm

      Hi Nick,
      Not usually, only if it’s an especially dirty udder and I have dirty hands. And remember, your “check” is always how your milk is testing. We consistently, every single time, get great test results, low bacteria/coliform counts, so we know our process is working.

      Thanks for your question!

      • Dusty October 29, 2014, 6:44 pm

        I found some wipes for dairy cattle called “wipe out” and use them on the orifice of the cows and then to wash my hands after cleaning the udders.

  • Mona October 4, 2013, 7:28 pm

    This was a very helpful video. I wish I could attach my claws with such ease! I have a Delaval claw and can’t seem to manage it with only one set of hands.

    I would love to see videos of both your milk handling and milk machine clean up.

    • Charlotte Smith October 4, 2013, 9:22 pm

      Hi Mona –

      I’m going to do a video on our machine cleanup in December! Did you sign up to receive auto-updates so you’ll get that in your inbox? We never spam and it’s just monthly emails. That way you don’t have to check back, it will be there for you.

      Maybe I’ll schedule a milk handling one for January. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the tips!!


  • Tara November 5, 2013, 4:14 pm

    I just found your website and there is so much great information on it. We just got our first cow a couple weeks ago, she is a midsize jersey, which is great in that we don’t get too much milk. We are learning everything as we go here so any tips I can get are greatly appreciated. We bought a surge bucket milker which is working out great for us and is easy to clean. The system came with everything we need to clean the cow and the equipment so I know we are doing the right things there. What does everyone use to sanitize the glass bottles that you put your milk into? I’m trying to find the best product for this job so that I know my bottles are sanitary so that we keep the milk totally safe. Thanks!!

    • Charlotte Smith November 5, 2013, 5:30 pm

      Tara, thanks for writing and so glad you found us!!

      We have a sanitizing dishwasher devoted to our milk jars/lids.

      You can use a regular dishwasher, too.

      I’ve known others that were milking on a really small scale and handwashed and did a bleach rinse and let them airdry and that worked.

      The check if your system is working is always your test results – take your test sample from your final container (your clean jar of milk) to make sure it’s working.

      If you handwash for years and you have consistent test results every month, then you know it’s working.

      Best of luck, thanks for your comment, and see you back on here really soon!!!


      • Tara December 19, 2013, 7:19 pm

        Thanks for the reply. We have a regular dishwasher that has a sanitize cycle, but we have well water and there always seems to be a white film on anything that comes out of it. Not sure if it’s the dishwasher that is the issue or the well water but things never look clean. I sure would like to go the dishwasher route though.

        What would be the correct ratio of bleach to water to do the bleach rinse?

        • Charlotte Smith December 19, 2013, 7:25 pm

          Hi Tara — A bleach rinse for the jars could be 1/8th cup household bleach in a gallon of water. If it’s food grade, then just a splash of bleach for a gallon water.

          Have you had your well water tested? You might start there. make sure there are no bacteria in there causing this film.

  • Garth January 21, 2014, 5:17 am

    Hi, thanks for the great website and videos. We currently milk 3-4 Alpine goats. We also hand milk, so I’m interested in protocols for that as well. I like the approach using very little water, but we currently wash much more of the bag and then dry well because we are worried about material falling into the bucket from the rest of the bag. Nicer if you just have the area where the claw attaches to keep clean. Thanks for the testing info, we will definitely be testing our milk and doing some swabs on our containers. We hand wash and containers then sanitize with food-grade paracetic acid (Tsunami), which I think also keep milk scale down because of the acidity. Also had a problem with the Iodine-base teat dip as one of our girls was allergic. Now we have gone back to Chlorine-based.

  • Susan Lea March 21, 2014, 2:37 am

    Thank you so much for this! Someone shared it on the Keeping a Family Cow forum, and it’s so helpful. I hand milk, but I’ve been washing the cow’s whole udder, then drying it and using commercial teat wipes, one per teat. After milking I was using a chlorhexadine spray. On my vet’s recommendation I recently switched to an iodine teat dip post-milking, so I’ll do exactly as you suggest and do it before, also. I have a collection of various cloths, but I’m also going to switch to white so it’s easier to see if she’s clean. This is great!

  • Sharon March 23, 2014, 2:35 pm

    Hi Charlotte–

    Fantastic video! So glad I found it. My newest Jersey gal will be freshening in April, and I’m delighted to know that I’ll be doing it right this time! Wish you were closer (I’m in NW CO) but am really pleased with the information here. Now I’m going to check out how to clean a milking machine. I KNOW I’m not doing that right… Thank you for such a clear, user friendly, and concise video.

    • Charlotte Smith March 23, 2014, 3:07 pm

      Sharon, thanks so much for commenting!! Best of luck with your milking. I appreciate your encouragement πŸ™‚

  • Mary May 28, 2014, 1:00 am

    I wish I saw this video 2 years ago. It’s so informative and great to actually see the prep being done instead of just reading about it. What brand of teat dip are you using? Do you dump the dip and use fresh for post dipping?

    • Charlotte Smith May 28, 2014, 2:16 pm

      Hi Mary – thanks for commenting!! No, we do not dump the teat dip and use fresh every time. The teat cup design helps with keeping it fresh. We dump about twice a week. We are only milking 3 cows, so it would be huge waste otherwise. I buy my teat dip at the deLaval store near here.

  • Christine June 15, 2014, 3:14 am

    I just ran across your site tonight. I am looking into getting a small family milk cow for our small acreage farm. Right now I’m actually trying out a dexter cow for a month just to see what its like taking care of cows. I’m glad for the opportunity because I want to make sure when I do purchase that I’m getting the right cow for us. Looking into raising the calves for meat.
    Did you ever get around to posting anything about hand milking? That is my plan.
    Thanks so much!

  • Cheri July 17, 2014, 2:34 am

    Thank you so much for this video. We have milked Jersey’s by hand for years but someone just gave us a Holstein – too much milk for hand milking. I dug out my old Delaval milker but had no clue how to clean it. Could you share the brand names of your cleaners – I’d like to look for them locally! Your videos are priceless! I’m looking forward to the video on the CMT test! Please…please keep them coming!

  • Jenna October 15, 2014, 1:42 am

    Thank you so much for your video. It was very helpful. I hope I can find a farmer near me in Oklahoma who is this thorough!

  • Dusty October 29, 2014, 6:42 pm

    We made our steps using dirt! The cows have never slipped while on plywood they did, even with strips of wood to catch them. We made “boxes” to hold the dirt. Here is a video that shows the cows walking up the steps and then outside and shows the head catch and sliding door.
    hope this helps!

  • Tracie March 17, 2015, 2:03 am

    First Jersey for us , gave birth Friday. I am just learning about the proper way to milk. Very helpful video! Thanks!!

  • Holly May 21, 2015, 3:31 pm

    I third!!

  • Brian July 20, 2015, 10:00 pm

    Great video . we wear gloves as bacteria can live in your cracks of your skin. Keep up the good work!!!

  • Heidi Thieman September 29, 2015, 5:55 am

    Love your website. I’m really excited to watch all of your videos! LORD knows I need the help! Thanks for what you do! Heidi

  • Ashley December 13, 2015, 1:23 pm

    Charlotte- what teat dip do you use?

  • Mackenzie Griffis July 27, 2016, 1:57 pm

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! The knowledge you’re sharing has been invaluable to me. I am anxiously awaiting my first calf. My Guernsey heifer is a week overdue. I already have your system in place to clean my milking machine. And after watching your video on udder prep I feel confident I can provide clean milk for my family. I just can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have come across your videos!!!!

    • Charlotte July 27, 2016, 2:58 pm

      Thank you, Mackenzie!! Best of luck!! You’ll love having your family milk cow and all the goodness she brings you πŸ™‚

  • Kim Curry July 27, 2016, 9:26 pm

    I live in Illinois and need to meet the USDA standards n order to sell raw milk. We are still in the process of becoming registered. According to the information provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health, we must make sure that the flanks, udders, bellies and tails shall be free from visible dirt. This is contrary to what you do, and it seems that it would involve a fair amount of water, especially the tail. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Charlotte July 27, 2016, 10:18 pm

      Well a good stiff brush may work, like you’d find for a horse and the feed store. I’ve used a brush on udders before. But I’d never suggest using water, just introduces too much risk.

      Do you have a large dairy near you who already meets the USDA standards you can go mentor with? That’s the first greatest step you could take and then see what they do to meet the standards. I learned tons from my dairy visits the first year before I ever brought my first cow home.

      Good luck!!

  • Gina smith July 28, 2016, 6:16 pm

    Thank you so much. So informative. We have 3 cows…a Guernsey and two jersey. Where do you get your milk tested for bacteria counts?

  • Craig Scariot December 27, 2016, 4:59 pm

    Hi There!

    I noticed that you strip the teats after applying the teat dip and immediately before attaching the inflations. I read on another dairy site that teats should be stripped before sanitizing the teats so as to avoid the potential for contamination from the plug/milk near the end of the teat. What are your thoughts on this?

    Many Thanks!

    • Charlotte December 27, 2016, 5:16 pm

      There are reasons to do it either way – your test results are your best indicator. We never have a problem with it. thanks for the question!

  • Heather February 17, 2017, 12:28 pm

    Very informative. Thank you for your great site! Something else to consider, people like myself who are allergic to iodine. If it touches my skin, within seconds I stop breathing. A great alternative has been Dermasept, purchased at Hamby. It works as well, if not maybe better, as it has a conditioner for the teats. I will say Dermasept cost a little more but for me it’s worth the cost. So for people who can’t use iodine there are at least one other safe option for us.

    Thank you,

    Contains a Lethal Germicide – Formulated with a fatty acid germicide (Caprylic-Capric Acid) for broad spectrum kill of mastitis-causing organisms. Germicidal activity evaluations have shown that DermaSept possesses superior killing power versus popular 1% iodine products.

    • Charlotte February 17, 2017, 9:28 pm

      Perfect antedote to an iodine allergy! Thanks πŸ™‚

  • Cynthia May 17, 2018, 6:38 am

    This is great information! I grew up on a dairy farm and still learned things about the cleaning process that I didn’t know. That was 35 years ago, and today we have a miniature Jersey cow and we’re trying to perfect the process.

  • Caitlin August 21, 2018, 6:55 am

    Thank you for the video! I also would like to know if you have any suggestions for hand milkers. Just wondering if we should be cleaning the whole udder to prevent debris from getting in the bucket. Thank you!

  • carly chandler December 22, 2018, 8:50 pm

    Thank you so much! I have learned so much about improving my processes in the last 2 weeks since finding your site.

  • carly Chandler December 22, 2018, 8:52 pm

    I submitted my comment, and then thought of a question! Do you always clean the “dirtier” cows with water or only when they come in dirty? My Jersey tends to lay right in mud or her poo just to annoy me (she is on 50 acres with 3 horses and a small herd of goats…I don’t think it is a sanitation issue).

    • Charlotte December 24, 2018, 9:04 am

      Hi, Carly – so glad you found this info helpful!

      Yes, I clean dirtier cows with hot soapy water. Then teat dip as usual.

      good luck!!


  • Catherine March 18, 2019, 4:23 pm

    really enjoyed your videos on equipment cleaning and udder prep. I have goats which is slightly different. With respect to caked on dirt and poop I like to brush it off before I start cleaning as they often move around during milking and it can drop onto equipment and my sleeves.
    I use acid dairy cleaner – daily and alkaline once a week! I like the idea of doing it daily. I cold rinse (warm seems smarter) followed by hot acid wash. Then rinse before each milking with cold boiled water no sanitiser.
    Lips and edges, nooks and cranies in pipe connections keep me on my toes!
    Why sanitiser before milking not just cooled boiled water?
    I also teat dip after milking with a comfrey vinegar spray (boiled comfrey root and vinegar few drops lavendar oil) – had no issues with mastitis since using this spray – udders and teats in very good condition – year round – goats have dryer skin than cows and sheep.
    I clean with the comfrey vinegar spray as well – never water – wipe with towel as you do.

  • Robbin Edick September 9, 2020, 8:27 am

    So you put the iodine dip on you let it sit and then you just dried off of the paper towel no rinsing required.
    And what kind of milk system do you use that sucks on there and stays on so nice on her teats

    • Charlotte September 9, 2020, 9:16 am

      yes, that’s exactly what we do – it sanitizes in the seconds it’s on there and no rinsing.

      Look up the vacuum pump systems on hamby dairy supply and you can find what you need. It’s great!


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