My goat kids (Admiral Ackbar and Mon Monthma) are a month old today, and so begins milking season. Last night, I shut Minnie up in a stall apart from her kids (but still within smelling and hearing distance) for the first time. They complained a little last night about the separation, but it wasn’t too traumatic. By this morning, Minnie was getting louder and louder. In all likelihood, she was probably uncomfortable having a very full udder without kids around to relieve her. The kids, on the other hand, seemed just fine.
Before heading out to the barn, I filled up the sink with a sanitizing solution of iodine and tepid water (above photo) and soaked my milk bucket, milk strainer, half-gallon jar, and jar lid.
I’ve been feeding Minnie on the stanchion for the last month, so she’s used to mounting up here for breakfast. Her private stall is just inside the barn, so when I open up the interior door, and she will parade out.
When we first got goats from a local 4-H family, we inherited their old stanchion, and it had two straps on the back. The previous owners had fitted them there to hold back the feet of unruly milkers and keep the milk bucket from getting stepped in. After upgrading to a metal stanchion, I improvised with thick baling twine and made a new makeshift hobble for the early days of milking.
Before bringing her out, I brushed Minnie down to minimize the stray hairs that will inevitably end up in the milk bucket. Minnie still doesn’t like grooming much, but but she’s getting used to it.
I filled up the food dish on the stanchion with grain. I feed her wed COB (corn, oats, and barley with molasses) with an extra scoop of soy protein.
I brought out my milk bucket along with a clean cloth and a spray bottle of sanitizing solution to clean Minnie’s udder.
I knew that milking Minnie for the first time was going to be kind of an ordeal, so I didn’t want to make her wait in the stanchion while I took a bunch of photos. I did, however, snap this one blurry shot.
All in all, the actual milking went okay. It wasn’t a total success, but it wasn’t a total failure either. In the beginning, she was actually surprisingly calm for a first-time milker. Unfortunately, she progressed into a more or less full-blown freak out, trying to jump around and get her head out of the head hold. We were both pretty safe with her in the stanchion. When her feet were in the stirrups and her head was stabilized, she couldn’t hurt herself, and I could keep milking nearly continuously.
I did discover two problems that may make milking this year a bit difficult. First off, her teats are quite small in comparison to the two other goats that I’ve milked (her mom and one of her sisters). Having small teats means that A) each squirt yields less milk, and B) I’m more likely to squirt milk somewhere other than in the bucket because my fingers are in the way. With Bella (Minnie’s mom), I was able to milk with my thumb wrapped around the back of the teat, and I used three fingers to do the squeezing, leaving my pinkie up in the air. This morning, I was using three fingers, but her teats weren’t quite long enough to clear the third finger, so I ended up squirting a lot of milk into my hand (leading to it running down my forearm) and sometimes even on my leg because her little teats were hard to aim. I’m hoping this was something made worse by her nervous behavior, and eventually when she settles down, the process won’t be quite so messy and wasteful.
Secondly, one side of her udder was way more full than the other side. Obviously, the kids are giving some kind of preferential treatment to the full side. It’s not a huge problem, and I think with regular milking, it should even out a little. I’m just glad that the one side hadn’t dried up entirely. It’s most efficient to be able to milk the whole time with two hands, but this morning, the smaller side ran out of milk after a couple minutes, so I was left squeezing just one teat for a while.
When all was said and done, I got just over a quart of milk. I didn’t milk Minnie’s udder dry-dry because she was unhappy, and I knew that the kids would clean up after me when I let Minnie out to mingle with the rest of the herd. I’m hoping that with some practice for both of us, I’ll get closer to a half-gallon per day, which is more than enough for all our milk and goat-cheese needs.
I went to the grocery store yesterday, and it was weird not to buy any dairy products (except for a big hunk of parmesan cheese. I haven’t mastered that one yet.). It’s been a full five months since I last milked, so I’ve gotten a little lazy and complacent, but it’s good to be back in action.
I’ll milk every morning (with very very few exceptions) from now until Thanksgiving if all goes well. Hopefully after a few sessions, we’ll both be more at ease, and we can do our thing fairly efficiently.
I really want to try making a few hard cheeses this year (something I said last year, too, but never got around to it), and I’d like to make mozzarella on a regular basis instead of just occasionally. And as always, our refrigerator will be filled with vast quantities of chèvre.
For more info on my daily milking routine, you can read/see this post from last year in which my dear assistant/husband took lots of photos of me in action.