There are as many ways to train an animal to milk as there are milkers, I think. There has to be. We all do things just a little bit differently so it will suit us as individuals and that is good. I have tried to do things just like someone else before, but sometimes it just doesn't work for me unless I make the changes I need for it to make sense or match the difference in my abilities. I definitely think milking falls into this category.
Out of the 12 does we bought in our original herd when we moved here, I trained 6 of them as milkers. And since them I have trained 4 or 5 of the does that have been born here. This is Ivory. She was born here a year ago March.
My training technique has definitely changed and gone through some refining over the last few years. The thing that increases the ease of training the most is raising the doe from birth. Here is Copper when she was just a few days old. We had to 'fix' her ear. I find that does I have handled every day since birth are more trusting and easier to manipulate than those that I have bought. Even does that I have brought home at 8 weeks of age. There are always exceptions, but as a general rule 'my' does are much easier to train.
Those of you that are following Frank's radio communications posts, take note of the microphone and handy talky I have. We use these radios every single day around our farm. It is an important part of our daily operational security (OPSEC). I prefer to use a microphone with my handy talky, but Frank doesn't. We all have to figure out what works best for us. There have been a few occasions that they have made a big difference when one of us needed help. Frank will be discussing this much more on some of his future posts.
I begin by bringing the 'new' doe back into the barn in the milking area and feeding her in a bowl on the floor next to me while I milk another doe on the stand. This year my only 'first timer' or yearling is Copper.
Now that Copper is used to coming into the barn to eat. I start to lure her onto the stand occasionally with her feed bowl after the previous doe is finished and turned back out with the herd.
When I first began training the does, I would take them by the collar and tail and kind of drag them up on the
stand and clip their collars to a leash and make them stand there.
that I have figured out how to lure them up there and apply a little
patience, I realize that all that dragging just caused both the doe and I
unneeded stress and anxiety.
Copper is still pretty hesitant about jumping up on the
stand, but she is coming along. While she is here I will pat her on the stomach and check out her udder and teats so she will get used to being touched there.
I have handled her a lot since she was
born. She may wiggle around some, but she is usually just fine. The closer she gets to kidding, the more time I will keep her up on the stand to eat.
Many times I will stand beside her and scratch her shoulders or just lay my hand across her back. I will also sit in my milking chair while she is on the stand so she will be accustomed to having me in that position.
When a doe is a few weeks from kidding, I check her right side like this. It is really neat when you can feel the kids kicking.
Another thing I have learned to do is check on either side of the root of the tail to see if the doe's hips are spreading. When she is a few days from kidding this area will be very soft and open. The goats don't like for me to do this at first, but after a while they get somewhat used to it - especially if they are eating.
Copper has gotten better at getting up on the stand than she has at getting down. She still looks around like she doesn't know what to do next.
Anything I can do to expose her to situations she will encounter when I actually start milking, will decrease her fear and anxiety and increase our success in making this experience pleasant and productive.
Milking an animal can be a very rewarding experience. It can provide you with sustenance, a sense of accomplishment and a skill that can prove very valuable. Sometimes the weather is very hot, sometimes it is cold and sometimes the sunrises are beautiful beyond description.
Until next time - Fern