Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Let me preface this post by saying, we don’t show our goats. We are a licensed Raw Dairy producing milk and cheese for sale at the farm and also at local farmers’ markets, so what follows is information pertaining specifically to hand milking.
Udders, big, small, tight, loose, big teats, small teats, and large and small orifices in the teats; all of these things affect milking! Not how much milk is produced, but the ease of hand milking. Oh and one other thing, the fun of dealing with the first freshener!
A commonly asked question is “how will I know when my goat’s udder is empty?” I always giggle a little under my breath when I get this one, then with a very straight face I reply, “when no more milk comes out”. Of course another way to tell is when the teats lose their full look and become very limp.
I took lots of photos of our girls full and empty udders, but the one that shows “empty” the best is Sweet Pea. She is a Sable, first freshener, doing fantastic in the milking department, and will probably lead the herd in milk production by next year!
And, speaking of first fresheners, another frequently asked question is how we get our newbies to behave so well. That answer is so easy! Once our little girls are tall enough to reach the food pan on the milking stand, that’s where they start getting their meals. By the time they are ready to be milked for the first time, they are first of all, completely familiar with the milking stand and where their food is, and secondly, they are very calm about getting up on the stand because they know it’s always a pleasant experience. Toward the end of their pregnancies, every time they come into the milking room to eat, they get petted, stroked, and we palpate their udders. So on the first milking day, they know what’s going to go on!
Now, let’s talk about udders! A great big udder doesn’t always mean a great big slug of milk; and the same is true with small udders! Our biggest producer, Chami, who is also a Sable, has what I would classify a medium sized udder, medium sized teats, and unfortunately small orifices in her teats. What does that mean? It means she produces well over a gallon at the beginning of the season, but, it takes quite a while to milk her because the size of the orifice prohibits a big flow of milk. My husband, Ken, can get two goats milked while I milk Chami. She’s a great goat with fantastic production so I wouldn’t trade her for anything!
Xable (pronounced Zable) is another Sable who has a totally different udder. Even though we milk by hand, Xable would be the perfect goat for a milking machine. Xable has a very small udder with very small teats and huge orifices in her teats. Milking her is like turning on a faucet! She is a 5 to 7 pound (a gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds) a day milker and she produces gorgeous triplets every year. She is our herd comedienne, her comic relief every morning makes it all worthwhile.
Winnie, a French Alpine, has a huge udder, great big “baloney” teats, and large orifices. She is without a doubt, our easiest, fastest, most talkative milker. She produces between 7 and 9 pounds a day.
Our two first fresheners, Sweet Pea and Twilite, (both are Sables) have beautiful udders, growing teats and great orifices. Growing teats? Yes, as these first milkers are milked twice a day, their small first time teats, start to become stretched and they literally grow. Both girls are already up to 6 pounds or more per day, and promise to be fantastic producers by next season.
As an aside, milk is produced by supply and demand. If you are not placing a demand, production will continue to be depleted until it stops altogether! So, when you are hand milking, make sure you empty the udder completely. What we do, is once the udder is empty, we massage it for a few seconds and, believe it or not, there is always more milk there.
If you have any questions after reading all of this, please feel free to ask them in the comment section, I’ll be more than happy to answer them for you.
A lot more information is available in my books, Goat School: the Manual, and Goat School:A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking.
Want to learn a lot more? Come to Fall Goat School, on Columbus Day weekend! A gorgeous time to visit Maine!