Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Goat Milking 201

It hasn't been too long since I first strode the walk, sat the seat, and grabbed the teat. While I'm no expert  I do know a thing or two about milking so lets talk about the next level. How about a "201" level chat about how to milk them gals? 

If you need the basics of how to milk a goat than run right over to Fiascofarms and learn how the pro's do it. Or if you want a hilarious account of "how to" then check out our own Goodwife's Goat Milking 101.  And if you want to find out how NOT to milk a goat, well.. thats why you have me.

So, you've run right out and goat your goat, have a milking bucket and stand, and even have gotten used to a routine but do you still have some questions? Here are a few things that I've learned since that first fateful day with Vita:

What if there isn't a lot of milk!?
A couple things... first, if your gal is just fresh she may not give a ton of milk immediately. There is what's called the lactation or "milking curve" where you doe "ramps up" to full speed...than gradually decreases over the season. This makes sense in the natural when her baby would eat more as it got older than she weaned him at the end of the season. So don't be alarmed if you get about 2 teaspoons the first day. Just keep to a schedule and make sure she has a lot of hay, fresh water, and good quality feed on the stand.

However, if your gal has been pumping out the milk and all of a sudden there isn't much? Yikes - start investigating. Does she need to be wormed? Is she off her feed? Does she have a temperature? Is the weather extremely hot or extremely cold? Milk production is an indicator of health so start checking her out to determine a cause.

Remember that hay makes the milk - not the feed. A good dairy feed is necessary to keep her charged up but the milk making is mostly from the hay. Hay is a tricky thing. Generally you want a lush alfalfa hay for your dairy gals. You can read more about that here. Many times during the summer I'll go and cut a bunch of fresh weeds which the ladies love - and their milk production jumps up the next couple of milkings. For the best quality milk, make sure you have the best quality hay.

What if she doens't like to be milked?
That's where you need to be the Boss Goat and not take any shenanigans. Remember that goats are herd animals - they want to know who to follow (that's you, by the way). If you have trouble catching her, leading her, or getting her up on the stand then fight fire with fire and ONLY feed her on the stand. This is what we do anyway but you can bet there will be some pushing and shoving about who gets to "go first" at the gate if the food is only on the stand.

Also, if you have a schedule she'll be ready to be milked and will be glad to have the pressure on her udder released by milking. And of course you tell her how pretty she looks and what a good job she does, right? (Cut to scene, OFG by the gate screaming at the goats "Which one of you meat bags is next? Get it in gear and show me the money, goat!")

What if she is all hoppy-aroundy, sits down, lays down, steps in the bucket, or kicks the bucket?
Well, thats a problem. But of course there is a solution. Over on Backyardherds.com there is a spectacular thread called "Kicky Milker." Pretty much all the pro's gave their insights into how to handle all these problems.  The main things to remember are that you are in charge, crying is OK, and expect to be frustrated at some point.

But the good news is that goats are trainable. Right now Debbie gets a little fussy after being on the stand for a while. She'll pick her leg up like she's going to put it in the bucket....so I give her a little shove with my shoulder to make stand on her feet. One of the reasons she does this is that she is replicating how she only allows the babies to nurse on her for a while before she walks away. So she just needs to be reminded to keep her feet down.

Nothing is worse than a beautiful frothy bucket of milk....and then watching your goat step in it. Ugh! You can go and buy expensive "hobbles" to restrain your goats feet. But really, the only thing we've ever done is use bailing twine. Or worse, once we was being so naughty I took up all her feed and had my husband hold her (this is the "hubby hobble"). She was really really mad. And she never acted like that again.

Once you goat knows that its fun, easy, and all the good snacks are on the stand she will probably just stand there quietly.

What if you can't milk twice a day?
Honestly, you don't really have to milk twice a day. For most of last summer I only milked Nibbles once a day in the mornings.  You will not get as much milk if you only milk once a day but if good enough is good enough than that's OK too.

Some folks will quote you chapter and verse about how you have to milk twice a day, at exactly 12 hours intervals or your goat will blow apart (not really). For sure you will get the best results using this schedule...but I also know a professional breeder with an inconsistent work schedule. She milked twice a day - but whenever she could do it. It worked just fine.

For us we milk twice a day but we go with the daylight. For instance, we milk about an hour after sunrise  and about an hour before sunset in the summer. When its cold - in the late fall and now in early spring, we wait until it warms up a bit in the morning. So we are on about a 9am and 6pm schedule. As long as you are consistent with whatever schedule you set, just keep up with it. It won't hurt if you are 30 minutes or so early or late. And we found out that both Debbie and Nibbles milk like the dickens and they are really hard to dry out at the end of the season. Technically we could miss a milking ....but the gals would be uncomfortable and it isn't a good practice.

What if your arms hurt?
Your arms will hurt until you get used to it. The best remedy is a 12 ounce extra cold "pack" that you can drink after milking. Just hold the bottle right on your poor, tired, and sore arms. Then take a deep breath and remember you gotta go milk that goat tomorrow too.

Any other questions? Ok then get out there and milk that goat! Happy Tuesday everyone!


Autumn said...

This was really informative. I can't wait until I'm acutally able to have a doe!

JeffJustJeff said...

Any links to remedial goat milking??? LOL Can't wait. As usual, you have me cackling like a loon at work. It's more fun when everyone around you thinks you're nuts.


Mama Mess said...

Tee hee! How wonderful and thanks for the plug!

I'm getting ready to start using those hand grippy exerciser thingys to get my hands in shape for milking in June. They really do help!

I've also noticed that Tulip and Star give slightly less milk when they are in heat.....not sure if all goats do that.

Great post Sister!

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

Well, I think I'll pass on the milking the goats :o( my hands already hurt, and my arms aren't any better.. now, Chickens! that's a different story I only have to toss the food :o) and set out the water.

small farm girl said...

Ok, you must be in my head or something. You know what questions to answer before I even ask them. Thanks for the post. I needed it.

Chai Chai said...

This is a great stuff, thanks for posting. I don't think my arms will be hurting but I can't say the same for my fingers....

Eloise's said...

Next time you need to include a course on rescue methods for the self strangulating goats..... ;)

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Before we get to anything else... a word of explanation about "info's" comment.

Um... Info is a silly goose, first of all.

And what she is referring to is the rare occasion when your silly goat hops around on the stand and either jumps ON PURPOSE from the stand - with her head in the stanchion! - or falls off. In the worst case your only option is to get the butcher knives and have at it much like the pigz. Or just stand there slack jaw'ed and buggy eyed at what she's just done.

As you might have guessed, "Info's" goat is a silly goose and jumps down when she is "locked and loaded." I have well advised "Info" to man up, march out there, milk that goat, and not to take any shenanigans.

For the record she is not an internet weirdo. Ahem.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hi Autumn! You'll do great milking!

Jeff - did you see the link in the first paragraph? Goodwife has a great tutorial. And she says to wash your hooters.

GW - I usually do a variety of construction projects as a "warm up."

Ginny - those chickens are no trouble at all. I just love 'em!

Great, SFG! Let me know if you have any other questions.

CC - after 20 years of email fingers care barely take those tiny little teats. Luckily, Nibbles isnt too bad - and the rest of the gals have "bigguns"

Eloise's said...

Well, dang...how the heck I end up as "INFO"....Gotta fix that!

Guess it goes right along with "WHAT's MY NAME FOOL?"

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Whats my name? D-O-Double G baby! Whoot! And you got the biggest what!?!

And yes please, "Info" change your ID in google please.

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