Well my first day homestead sitting has been a tad eventful. This is a 15 acre homestead with three livestock guardian dogs, chickens, turkeys, 18 fiber sheep, angora goats, three horses and 12 or so dairy goats. Jasmine tragically died two weeks ago and her absence was palpable.
Lucky for me only three of the goats needed milking. The girls that are milked know who they are and thankfully have collars, should they try to duck me, and rushed to the gate for their mammary release.
I must admit right now, I had never milked a goat. Cows, yes, for years. When the first goat jumped up on the milking stand I was presented with an udder that resembled two giant yams hanging from her. I believe this one was an Alpine. My hands instantly groaned at the sight of the teats I would have to work.
After the customary pre-milking cleansing, I figured that was sufficient foreplay to get her to let down. Wrong. Her left side clamped up like a turned off faucet. The ride side finally let go. After way too long, my hands were growing weary and I did what any sane person does in this situation: I googled it.
Actually first I sent my son to my friend’s book case knowing she had Carla Emery’s book, The Encyclopedia of Country Living. Isn’t that where I learned most everything on the homestead? Being a man (sorry to my male neighbors) he couldn’t find it…well at first.
“Mom she has tons of cookbooks but I don’t see that book,” he said.
“Ok, I’ll figure it out,” I said as I wiped sweat off my brow. It was hot and I was getting nervous as this bulbous milk filled udder hung before me.
Remember my article about always keeping your phone with you on the homestead? I pulled out my little scarlet colored phone and dialed my daughter, who was at work.
“Honey are you busy?” I asked praying the answer was “no.”
“Nope, what’s up?” she asked
“I need you to Google “how to milk a goat.” The laughter at the other end carried through the phone waves and I too was laughing along with her. This was ridiculous!
With in minutes her answer came.
“The first thing to know is that milking a goat is nothting like milking a cow,” she read. Duh, that I already knew! Did my daughter just snortle?
“Clamp your thumb and first finger around the base of the teat to clamp the milk off or it will go back into the udder. Now close the remaining fingers to work the milk out of the teat.” she read.
“It’s kind of hard to tell where her teat starts and ends but I’m on it,” I said. “Thanks, honey.”
“Oh mom, you are a good friend. Have fun!” she says.
I looked at the goat and leaned my head toward hers for a goat kiss. I knew she had to be milked or mastitis or drying up was at risk.
“Goatie, please pretend I am your baby and give me your milk,” I begged pathetically as she nuzzled me with her soft nose. I think at that point we bonded.
Just like that, after 30 minutes of working her udder, she released her milk and the drips became squirts. I also learned by trial that if I pushed my ringed fingers up into her udder, much like the kid would do, all I had to do was open my fingers, push up and the “balloon” would refill.
The other two goats had simple pencil thin teats,which were super easy for me to milk. Their teats resembled a cows and I could easily work my magic.
Now for the dogs. While this should have been easy, I had a puzzling question: How do you feed the dogs and not have the animals gobble up all their food before they get to it. Sadly I had to make a call to the homesteader.
“Kelly, how on earth to you feed the dogs and not have the goats eat up their food and get sick?”
“Crack a few eggs on them. The dogs are so crazy for eggs they won’t let the other critters near their food and eat it right then,” she said. I heard a slurping sound and hoped to God she was enjoying a margarita. She deserved it.
The secrets we develope when working with animals. Brilliant! I’ll check in tomorrow after the barn chores.
Happy Homesteading, S