Humble Garden

ReSkilling for future food independence

Our milking habits

Posted by Nika On August - 2 - 2009

Humble Garden 2009: milk

I have been quite blocked on all of my blogs (technology, weather, misalignment of stars and muses, who knows) but I am hoping that I can start to dig out here.

In my last post you saw how I was having early blight. All 60 tomato plants are now history. I pulled them a week ago but it has been raining steadily and at times torrentially so I have not been able to burn the plants and stakes yet. The dead wilting vines are taunting me.

Today I am going to share a snapshot of our homesteading life and I hope it entertains on some level.

Lets do a census first. Amongst the humans, we have 2 adults, one 12 yo, one 5 yo, and one 2.5 yo. We have 5 cats who kill but do not eat rodentia. We have something like 35 chickens who are threatening to go into molt because of this hideous weather. We have one llama who is hitting the upper limits on tolerating said hideous weather. We used to have 18 goats but we FINALLY sold 6 kids (they were literally eating us out of house and home) and now we are down to 12 goats, 7 of which we milk on a daily basis.

These goats like hay. They dont eat every bit so some of it ends up on the ground. The hay acts like a sponge once it hits the mud. We have an enormous amount of urine/manure/hay/mud that we need to muck out and every day we get more torrential rain that makes this mess even worse.

Humble Garden 2009: hay over unmentionable yuck

Humble Garden 2009: unmentionable yuck

We live with it and await a time (sometime?) when the rain will stop and we will be able to make some headway.

Goats are strangely prissy when it comes to the rain, you would think they feel actual pain when wet. They will do just about anything to avoid it (although that doesnt keep them from laying down in wet muck and soaking their teats in filth right before I need to milk them).

Needless to say, our goats are as close to the edge about all this rain as I am, I promise. I worry we might be getting to a point where pharmaceutical interventions might make sense! (winks)

Our Days

So, some of the does in milk still have their kids so every morning 2 of us have to go out into the knee deep slipperiness that is the goat enclosure and separate the moms from the babies. The momma goats are catching on and come willingly on some days, other days they run away, down the hill (slippery) and we have to track them down.

So, with that done, we feed them all hay and top off water. A bit later we give them some grain, more water, more hay, etc.

In the afternoon or early evening the DH drags out the portable milker which consists of a 50 pound pump and a slightly lighter set of milking claws and reservoir (stainless steel).

Humble Garden 2009: pump

Humble Garden Goats: whole set up

My 12 yo and I do the milking alone. She fetches the girls one at a time and on some days, when the caprine-oriented planets are aligned and the goats are hungry enough, they come running to the stanchion. Other days, the goats will make a break for the garden or the forest and we have to go after them.

Getting the 12 yo to simply use a rope every time seems to be more difficult than herding the goats.

My milking experience is one of dual frustrations; between early adolescent misery and goat toddler-with-hooves misery.

Humble Garden 2009: How to milk a goat

Humble Garden 2009: How to milk a goat

Humble Garden Goats: on the goat

When a goat gets on the stanchion I use wet paper towels to clean her teats and then I dry them. I then turn on the pump and put the teat cups on the teats. I stand back, massage my old aching back and watch as the milker extracts the milk. I also watch the goat for signs that she wants to kick the cups off or jump off the stanchion. If she tries to make a break for it, I grab her and HOLD her in place until her udders are empty. One goat, Oaty Goaty, seems to love me ok but HATES to be milked so its always a struggle with her. I can not take my hand off her leg or she will kick the teat cups off (into the yuck).

Since removing her babies, Rye the goat – henceforth called “Emotional Rye” – is fighting the milking process from the gate to the stanchion and back to the gate again. I dont understand why. We have to be consistent and not give up because if we did then it will only continue or get worse.

SOMEONE’s will WILL be broken, just hope its not mine is all.

During this entire process, the baby goats (who are now 5-6 months old, adolescents really) are peering into the milking shed or just making the worst sort of bleating sounds that I am convinced neighbors miles away can hear. The 6 we sold were SO LOUD I feared that the neighbors would call the police or board of health for animal mistreatment. The silly goat babies would stand in the middle of their enclosure, unmolested in any way and with bellies filled with hay and grain, and bleat at the top of their lungs. So very glad they are gone.

(remember, we have this circus every day)

Once all the mommas are milked, my DH will lug it all back into the house, into the kitchen, where I decant the milk, filter it and put it in the fridge or add cultures to make cheese (mostly chevre right now). These days we get about 2.5 gallons a day, which we mostly drink and we drink it raw.

Humble Garden 2009: 2.5 gals/day milk

Labeled and ready to go in the fridge.

Humble Garden 2009: milk

Now the work really gets started.

Now I have to clean the milker and this takes as long as the milking (an hour or so).

Humble Garden 2009: cleaning tubes

First I rinse everything with a cold spray (including the inside of the milk pail) and then I fill the red pot with cold water and flush the cold water up through the tubing into the milk pail.

I dump all that and then flush the lines with hot water that has a special cleaner that removes milkstone (a build up of calcium and magnesium that can really mess up your machinery).

I then scrub the interior of the milk pail and everything else and then dump all that and then flush/wash everything with even more hot water.

By the end my arms are exhausted and I am usually soaked head to toe.

Mind you, this is every day!

As I type this and hit post, I am getting ready to go out and milk. The sky is dark, its sprinkling, and the goats are cowering in the murk. I hope the sheeting heavy rain can hold off until we are done. If not, it will be like most other days around here.

Homesteading isnt easy kids. Being a goat mistress is not easy either. Being a goat mistress with pissy goats, grumpy pre-teens, teething toddlers, and obsessive 5 year olds who want to help but mostly cant – its almost more than any three women can bear!

6 Responses to “Our milking habits”

  1. Rev. Allyson says:

    I notice you have a small feed bag on your milking stanchion. What do you put into it? Tony used to have goats and he talks of them running eagerly to get at whatever treat was in the feed bag, and that they’d stand there calmly 99% of the time.

  2. Nika says:

    Yeah, you have to put grain there, else the goat has no patience for the whole process!

  3. Angie says:

    I am trying to weigh the cost for myself between hand milking and the time spent cleaning a milking machine. I have 6 does. My herd queen milks a gallon twice a day. The next doe under her milks 1.5 gallons a day. I usually have too much milk and too much cheese. I feel your pain with the pissy goats, mucky barn yard and kids of many ages.

  4. Nika says:

    Yeah, its a hard decision. Once our 6 new moms freshened (1 carried through preg milking to give us 7 total) I knew that our main milk maid (12 yo DD) would lose her mind if she had to milk them all and also, a few of the does have TINY teats – it seemed that a machine would be the only way to deal with these issues.

    I knew that getting the machine = MUCH more work on my part.

  5. Anna Synick says:

    I just have one milk cow, a Jersey (Emma), whom I milk by hand. I get about 5-8L from her, and I milk her every other day. I only milk Emma once a day, her calf is with her for the rest of the time (although I have to put her in the calf pen overnight on the mornings I milk). This is the second year I’m milking her, and I now don’t have to tie her up anymore, or tie her back legs – at times Emma was rather disagreeable last year! It was interesting reading about your milking machine – my hands sometimes feel like they’re dropping off but I think I might just stick with it.

  6. Nika says:

    Anna:

    I bet your hands get tired! Sounds like you have it down tho. Sounds lovely!

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About Me

We are a family of 5, including Nika, Ed, Q (14), KD (7), and Baby Oh (4). We garden 1024 square feet of raised beds plus assorted permacultural plantings. We also have 13 LaMancha dairy goats, 40 chickens, and one guard llama.

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