This is not the way you are supposed to do this. Official barn records are supposed to be a keep-as-you-go affair. Milk is supposed to be weighed and not measured by volume in order to account for foaminess. That said, I didn’t and I have no scale. I wonder somewhat whether I would have been able to hold a pen after milking Penny those first few weeks. She has really tight teat orifices and it took me close to an hour to milk her out initially…I would come back in the evening to milk and my hands would still be sore and cramped…’twas a lot of milky fun there for a while.
So here’s our goaty timeline:
February 16th–We sold Margo. Sigh…I really liked having a goat named Margo (this is not the right clip, but the right one is not available right now)…when we finally get a doeling we can keep, we’ll re-use that one. She had tested positive for CAE antibodies which limited her breeding options and the saleability of her babies. We thoroughly scraped out the stall, scrubbed the feeder and replaced the bedding.
February 20th–We bought Penelope and Angel. Penny had kidded the day before and was FULL of milk. After the afore-mentioned hour of milking I got nearly half a gallon out of her in the morning and a little over a quart in the evening. Angel had not yet kidded.
March 2nd–Angel gave birth to two bucklings (small sigh), Raphael and Gabriel. They were very cute, started nursing well, etc. Penny was up to just under a gallon a day.
March 13th–Babies disbudded. Penelope was still right around a gallon.
May 3rd–There is a big, flood-ish, milky wash here during which I learned to make pudding in the crock-pot, cheese and cultured buttermilk. Penelope was down closer to 3/4 of a gallon by this time. The date is significant only because I was beginning to suspect that Miss Elizabeth’s (8 yrs) “cold/allergies/irritation due to dry air” was not.
May 13th–The plague had now spread to Oldest Brother, Miss Belle (5 yrs) and Miss Pleasance (2 yrs). I was up most of every night with Miss Pleasance already and as the duration of this thing is 5-10 weeks, I figured the writing was on the wall for me. No time like the present to make the switch to once a day milking, eh? My planned nice, easy transition was actually accomplished precipitously in about three days, by scootching the morning milking later and the evening earlier until they met around 5pm. The first few days she still gave me half a gallon.
May 20th–She had now dropped to a quart and a half! Enough for normal use but no more cheese and only the rare custard. That was ok, we were SICK.
June 16th–The family slowly began to emerge from quarantine. At some point–I honestly cannot remember when–I started to milk Angel. It was weeks and weeks after we bought her before she would even walk with me, then a good week before she would get up on the stand (with my husband hauling her up!), then another couple of weeks before she’d let me touch her udder. Our milking routine is as follows: I give her a bucket mostly full of fine hay topped with grains for lactating goats, tie her into the stanchion, hobble (like this) her back legs, wash-spray-dry as quickly as humanly possible, clean my hands and then bump her udder like the babies do (she is not fooled, but is a little calmer than if I just go straight to milking) and then milk as gently as possible. Typically she will get tired of my messing around back there and will nose her bucket out of the stand and onto the floor. As she will not hold still at all unless she is eating, I have to put the milk someplace safe (!) get down on the floor and scoop up all the hay and grains, re-sanitize my hands and get the milk bowl down again. If I am lucky, she will let me get in a couple more squirts before she does it again. Despite having her back legs essentially tied together (too closely, I need a Goat Hobbles 2.0 before we start milking again next year) she can and does jump her hind end around when irritated. There was actually one day when she was particularly ornery, she was still closed into the stanchion and hobbled and didn’t want me to milk her any more and she pressed to a handstand on the stand! Hind legs fully up in the air, like this, except far less cute and with no voice over…although I may have heard loud, scary music as I took several steps back and considered if perhaps my goat was actually possessed. Anyhow, for all this delight I was rewarded between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of milk that could typically only be used for cooking since she kicked so much gunk around while I milked her. I would talk myself down from selling her just about every day: “this is her first freshening, first-timers don’t produce much and are twitchy, this is her training year, if she’s still rotten next year…” In the meantime, Penny’s production was continuing to decline and our hay bill was rising as the babies ate more and more.
July 28th–I found out I am pregnant. Penny was down to a “fat quart”, Angel was still the same…unfortunately. Both does were looking uncomfortably skinny, while the boys had big, round bellies and were almost as big as Penny (Angel is unusually large for a Nubian). They hay bill continued to climb and we began to suspect that we had waited too long to sell these “babies”. We discussed our options: keep them entirely on pasture (would require the installation of expensive and/or labor-intensive fencing), give them to family or friends as brush control (sure would be nice to get a little money to pay for all the hay they ate!), eat them (not sure the children would be on board with that one and I’m early pregnant–ripe for developing new and exciting food aversions), sell them. We craigslisted them for what seemed to be a fair price. No one contacted us.
September 7th–I had been getting steadily sicker, and had shifted everything to the children except milking. The smell was getting to me, but at least it’s a sitting down chore! Penny was almost down to three cups and it hardly seemed worth it to continue. The does looked even skinnier. We decided to try selling the babies one last time before we contacted a butcher and just stored the meat until I wasn’t sick anymore. We listed them for what we figured they’d eaten plus a little and get calls right away. They are sold and gone by 4pm. Angel and the boys bleated a lot as they were being loaded, but as soon as they were in, everyone calmed down and the doting momma went back to eating. Ruminants… Evening milking went as usual.
September 8th–Angel actually had milk! I thought the babies were mostly weaned, but I got nearly a quart out of her. Hooray! Why didn’t we sell them earlier?
September 15th–Angel leveled off to about 3 cups and Penny went up to about five cups. Also, both of them start gaining weight.
October 11th–As of yesterday Angel is producing around a pint and Penny is right around a quart.
Thoughts and questions: Penny’s production seems to have dropped off kind of precipitously, but I do not know if this is due to my inability to milk her in a reasonable period of time. Until August, my hands were still getting so cramped that I had to milk her one hand at a time and I wonder if that affected her supply. Also, the quick change to once a day milking likely affected her. I’d REALLY like to have goats that I could milk through (milk more than a year without breeding) so I wouldn’t have any totally milk-less months. Nubians are seasonal breeders, so one can only stagger them so much. I believe that the woman we bought Penny from always dried up her does before breeding season. Do their bodies “remember” this? Also, Penny’s temperament is great, but her teat orifices are small. Orifice size is not supposed to be passed on, is temperament? Angel’s temperament is awful (IMHO), but she’s *physically* an easier milker. Who to build a flock on?
I fight the wish that I were up and around and could be building goat shelters, feeders and strawberry beds; preparing garden beds and supports for grapes and berries. But the world needs this baby more than it needs all that.
(Updated so that all my tenses were consistent! My editing brain must have been asleep yesterday.)