The Road Home

The Road Home
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Milk Goat Training & Other Lore

Copper is the only first freshener I have this year, so she is new to the milking routine. The great thing about training her to milk is that she is very, very tame. Compared to some of the other goats I have trained she has been a breeze. There are a few tricks I have learned along the way that I want to share with you.

Begin training early. Bring your first fresheners into the area where you will be milking when they are young or at least a few months before they are in milk. Use patience instead of force to get them up on the milk stand. 
In the past, I would take a goat by the collar and tail and force them up on the stand. That was a lot of work and frustration for both me and them. Now, I will take a bowl of feed and gradually coax them onto the stand a little at a time, trying to increase their comfort level each time. It doesn't hurt to use their tail to help them make that final jump up onto the platform when they're almost there but are still unsure. It will usually cause them to jump, then they find themselves on the stand right at the feed bowl. After they calm down a little and find out there is a reward of a meal for climbing on this platform thing, they don't mind it so much. I talk to them a lot during this process as a means of reassurance. Scratching their shoulder blades doesn't hurt any either, they really like that.

Once your goat is used to the milk stand, you are ready for them to give birth. After the kids are born, start milking the doe within 24 hours. I find that my does will produce a very large amount of milk during the first 48 hours after freshening. I will milk them out almost completely about 12 hours after the babies are born. One, it makes them more comfortable, and two, it makes
it easier for the babies to nurse when the teats are not enlarged with so much milk. To do this, I bring the does to the milk stand. Some of them are a little anxious about leaving their babies in the birthing pen, but they are ready to have that extra milk removed. There have been occasions that a doe was just too anxious about leaving her babies. Then I bring the babies with her to the milk stand and work around them. It only takes a time or two, then the doe is comfortable with leaving the kids for a short time. I think this is a sign of a good mother, so it doesn't bother me at all. I don't keep this milk for human consumption since it is full of colostrum. This is kept in old peanut butter jars to be given to the dog, cats and chickens. Five days after kidding, I will begin keeping the milk for us.

The first time I brought Copper in after she had given birth I expected her to fuss and kick a little. She just stood there like I had been milking her for years. I was amazed. Then I thought, this is just the honeymoon period and she will put up a protest later on. She never did. She has been the easiest goat to milk I have ever trained. I attribute this to two things. One, she was very, very tame to begin with and I have been handling her a lot since she was born. And two, she was a single that had no other kids to play with for over a month when she was born, so she played with us. She has always been very trusting of us and very easy to handle.

One of the things I train the does to do, that makes it easier for me to milk, is to move their right leg out and back a little. It gives me more room for the bucket and makes it easier to reach both sides of the udder for cleaning and milking.
This is not the natural position they care to stand in, but it is not uncomfortable either. It is more of the stance they take when their kids are nursing. To get them to stand this way I used to take hold of their ankle area and move their foot to the desired position.
Then they would move it back, then I would move it again, then they would move it back, and so on. This got old and frustrating at times. Now I gently push against the leg just above the joint to get them to move the leg back.
They usually hold their leg up for a bit, then gradually let it down and it ends up where I want it instead of where they want it. After a while, I can just nudge them on the flank and they move the leg out of the way for me.




Many of the tricks learned during milking are specific to the animal. There are just small differences that come with each different personality. Basic techniques are used with all of my does, but they each have their own preferences as well. Take getting on the milk stand for instance. One Stripe will pause on the cement blocks and get her footing just right before she jumps on up, and she doesn't like to be hurried through this process.

 

Copper, on the other hand, avoids the block steps altogether and just launches herself up from the side of the stand, usually after walking in a circle. 












Here Copper and Ivory are trading places. Each doe knows when it is their turn in line and will usually wait their turn. I always find that to be fascinating. When Ivory comes in, she will use the block steps and quickly jump right on the the stand. But if I don't walk in right behind her fast enough for her liking, she will turn around and come right back down the steps, turn around and come right back up again. Each has their own way of approaching the stand, but once they are there, the behavior is very similar.

Once a doe is on the stand, I walk by pat them on the flank or side, and talk to them. As I sit down to milk, I pat them on the underside of their stomach and talk to them. Even if I am not keeping the milk and only milking into a peanut butter jar, I will massage the udder a bit
to them know I am going to start milking, otherwise they jump a little. The best thing I can do for successful milking is to keep a routine. I don't always milk at the same time of day, which is a recommended practice. If I did, it would increase the does milk production. But I do usually perform the task of milking in a very routine manner, which seems to keep the does relaxed and agreeable.


I enjoy milking my goats and I think that adds to the atmosphere of this task. If I didn't enjoy it, there are many little things that I would probably find very frustrating and annoying. But I don't. Milking early in the morning is a very peaceful, relaxing chore for me. I get to spend time with my animals, observing their behavior to see if there are any needs we should address. I get to listen to the world wake up as the rooster starts to crow and the song birds sing to the morning. For many years I have considered the song of the birds to be a gift from God. He bathes us with these beautiful songs, telling us how much He loves us and gives us a gift of peace. Stop and enjoy them. Listen. Be still. You are blessed.

Until next time - Fern

18 comments:

  1. Hi Fern! Thank you for such a detailed description, with photos, on how you milk your does! It will be tremendously helpful for me this summer when I begin the process! It's so funny how they each approach the milking stand! I just need the hubs or son to get our milking stanchion built! A shed would be nice too! Have a nice day! Blessings from Bama!

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    1. You're welcome, Felecia. I hope it comes in handy for you.

      Fern

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  2. We have had some goats like that, just stand there from day one like they have been doing it for years. We also have had some that even after years of milking, still have to show some defiance :)

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    1. You never know, do you, Sandra? I prefer the cooperative ones. The defiant ones tend to go on down the road rather quickly.

      Fern

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  3. This shows how much spending time with your livestock pays off! Ralph and I are going to use a lot of the information you have posted about milking goats. I have milked cows but the goats are all new to us!
    Isn't early morning a piece of heaven? I just love it...and dusk too..the evening calls of birds and the sighing of an evening breeze in the trees! Dawn and Dusk are like solid bookends on a good shelf of your favorite books! They hold things together!

    God Bless your farm!

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    1. That's a great description, Fiona. Thanks for the view.

      Fern

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  4. Great article and a lovely goat!

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    1. Thanks, Tessa, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Fern

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  5. We just found your blog through the Blog Hop and are so excited for all this great information! We are new goat owners (Nigerian Dwarfs) and have 3 pregnant does right now. For two of them this will be their first freshener, so it looks like we should start some training in the next few months. Thanks again and we're excited to follow along.

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    1. Welcome to the blog. I'm glad you found something of use here. Let us know how it goes with your goats. We like to learn from other's experiences.

      Fern

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  6. HI Fern, Love your blog and great article on goat milking. One of the things that has kept me from getting milk goats is the need for daily milking. How do y'all handle the milking if you have to go out of town? I'd like to be able to take a vacation now and them!. Thanks, Mike

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    1. As you know, Mike, the thing about milking is consistency. You could probably leave for a day or so, but you would get less milk after you back. Then there is also the concern about mastitis. The best plan would be to take time off after you dry the does off before they have their next babies. If you breed all of your goats at the same time, you will be without fresh milk for about two months when they dry off during the last part of their pregnancy. Then, your feeding schedule would be the only thing to consider. Livestock are generally a full-time commitment, so unless you have friends or relatives that can step in and see to things while you are gone, it can be difficult at times to be away from home. Best of luck and thanks for the comment.

      Fern

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  7. Great timing for this post. Thanks! I have two I need to train to the milk stand.

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  8. I agree with your comments about morning and the birds songs. I find myself waking up and thanking God for the beautiful music to wake up to. The birds around here can start singing well before dawn, like at 3 a.m. sometimes. I will just use that time to have a talk with God. Thank you for your detailed account of milking your goats. We will be getting Dexter cows here this spring. I have done some milking but not on a daily basis. So I like your comments about the routine of it. I like routine, so this will work really well for me.

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    1. I would be interested in hearing how it goes with your Dexters, Lanita. There is always more to learn. I'm glad to hear you enjoy the music of the birds. I have for years.

      Fern

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  9. Beautiful goat! I look forward to having some of our own at some point. Thank you for sharing this at our HomeAcre Hop!

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    1. You will really enjoy your goats when you get them. They're great!

      Fern

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