This post is a follow-up to my recent post, Learning to Milk a Goat. You can head over there if you want to commiserate with other folks who have ended up with many a hoof in the milk.
The lady who sold us our goat warned us that she hadn’t ever been milked much, and that she was older and stuck in her ways. She told us about her habit of trying to sit during milking. She told us sometimes she didn’t like to get up on the stand, but would do it with a little patience.
In my eagerness, however, I bought the goat at an extremely busy time in our lives and decided we would just figure out how to do it. Needless to say, by the end of the various milking disasters during week one, I was laughing a bit maniacally and asking why it was we wanted a goat again.
I kept likening it to when you’re learning to nurse a new baby: there’s just no way around it. You’ve got to figure out how to feed this kid or they’ll starve and you’ll end up with mastitis. Likewise, this dam’s kid had already been sold, so she was relying on us to get the milk out, and it just had to be done.
Sometimes it was a goat rodeo trying to get Leslie into the barn. Sometimes it took multiple tries to get her secured in the stand. Our milking sessions started out done as a family, with Tim holding Leslie’s hind legs while I tried my hardest to aim the milk into a bowl that I protected with life and limb.
To be fair, maybe we were the difficult ones and not her. In reality, we were both just new at milking and we each had our struggles.
Regardless, we’ve had Leslie almost a month now, and I’m happy to say that it’s gotten much better. With time and practice, milkings have become relatively peaceful times that can be done solo, with only minimal protests from the beast.
Keep in mind I’m still a very new goat owner. We’ve picked up some pointers that have helped us to be more successful with milking our goat, but we are by no means experts. Take my advice with a grain of salt, and find out what works best for you. 🙂
1) Develop a friendly relationship with your goat. Goats do not like to be picked up and carried, or chased after (not naming any preschoolers’ names), or frightened by your sudden dives while trying to catch them. Not speaking from experience here, mm-mmm, not me. They much prefer if you’re sweet and quiet and patient and gentle with them.
2) Become a goat whisperer. (Related to #1.) Find out what floats your goat’s boat. Our Leslie likes to be brushed, to be scratched behind the ears, and to have the gentle pressing of my head up against her side while milking. Maybe all those touches remind her of her kid- I’m not sure- but they seem to calm her down.
3) Create a calm milking environment & remove distractions. It doesn’t take a lot to freak our goat out. We have to make sure the neighbor’s goat is out of the stall during milking (she likes to compete for the grain ration), and that if our kids are with us that they’re being relatively calm and quiet. Taking multiple flash pictures like I did on this morning probably isn’t a good idea either.
5) Find a safe and gentle way to prevent kicking. The hobble: a gentle restraint that holds your goats legs together so she can’t kick. I heard about these amazing things through this helpful milking article, and tried to order one the same day. Surprisingly, it was difficult to source one that would fit a dwarf goat, and even if I was able to I would have to wait a while for it to be shipped. Not cool.
Then I read about making your own hobble out of household materials. I didn’t want to use rope for fear of rubbing on Leslie’s legs, but I thought a nice soft strip of old jersey t-shirt would do the trick. Here’s what ours looks like off the goat:
Her hooves would go through the little loops and they would be slid up over the “knees,” (because I don’t know technical terms yet), and the big loop would go around her back legs above the knees twice, making sure to thread it under itself in between loops so it stayed in place. Actually, we tied it on that way each time- we weren’t normally slipping it on pre-tied, but this is what it looked like after being tied. (If that makes any sense. Do you see why I don’t write crafting tutorials?)
After about a week of using our homemade hobble, we were able to begin weaning her off of it. Now I just keep a hand nearby to gently but firmly hold her leg above the knee if she tries kicking:
6) Give her rewards. Leslie loves a banana. We’ve also tried carrot and celery. Some goat owners give sunflower seeds regularly. (Here’s some more treat ideas.) As she’s learned to be more cooperative during milkings we’ve stopped giving her so many treats, but it was helpful for bribery in the beginning.
7) Be patient. Consider that your goat’s temperament has a lot to do with how your milkings will go. Don’t be a perfectionist. Realize that sometimes you’ll have to end the milking before you’ve gotten every last drop. Sometimes your milk will be spilled. But with patience and practice, things might just get a little better!
Experienced goat owners: What advice would you give a milking newbie to set him or her up for success?
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