Friday, May 13, 2011

Fussy milkers

We've have been having a cold spring around here. The forecast was looking brighter, but today has disappointed. We had big plans for the day: cover greenhouse with new plastic, assemble row tunnels and covers, turn more beds, plant carrot and turnip seed.... None of which got done. I did venture over to a friend's garden to dig Toklat strawberry plants, which is always exciting...never enough strawberries.

This week I've been working with our two main farm helpers for the summer. I'd say that I'm "training them" to do my morning chore routine. But with the milkers acting up, I'm not really sure who is training who. We humans, have been double teaming the milking does. I have finally moved inside and set up my milking area; milk stand, grain tubs, counter with supplies etc. Dustin had been tiling the area with slate, and like all projects this one went late. So, up until this week I was just milking one doe twice a day, and another doe once a day.  outside, in the mud, in a frustratingly, disorderly fashion. Each doe is bringing some personal issues to the milking parlor, with the exception of Zuri, who is the best first time milker ever - an absolute angel.

Rose, four season veteran has been balking at the milk stand. She has bad feet and has slipped a couple times this year on either wet milk on the stand, or a while back on frozen milk that pooled on the stand. She has also had mild Ketosis symptoms which we are attempting to remedy, but as a result she hasn't been interested in her grain, so she doesn't think she should have to stand patiently while we milk her - if she isn't eating.  So she has been stomping, jumping and struggling vigorously to get out of being milked. Then there is her daughter who is a first timer, who deeply resents being milked. She jumps on the stand fine, but doesn't eat and it takes one person to hold her hooves down while another person milks. She also poops out of nervousness every time she gets on the stand. Which until this year we have only had two occasions where we had a goat poop on the stand, our record is totally skewed now.

Then there is Xanadu, this is her third season. I just started milking her this week, as she has triplets and they are just three weeks old. She is going to be fine, but it takes a few days to get into the rhythm. She has stepped in the pail twice this week, but has stood fairly well, we milker's are just slow on the reflexes- but as the season progresses we will get sharper and quicker. Lastly there is Xoe who just kidded on Friday. Her twin bucklings are nursing on one side and leaving the other to fill to enormous proportions. So we've been emptying her full side. Well, then we had some clots and blood in her milk - I know - gross right? So I tested her for mastitis and one day it looked negative, but today maybe a mild positive. For now, I'm going to milk her out twice a day, teat dip with essential oils, massage with salve and some stimulating essential oils. If  this continues or gets worse I am going to start giving her Molly's immune support tincture a few times a day, but first I'm going to see if it clears up on its own. This is another first, first time in four years of milking that we've had clots like this or a maybe positive mastitis. Xoe has also been reluctant to hop onto the stand. So, milking around here has been a two person job. We are trying to be kind and patient, but it is hard with the seasoned milkers. Come on already, haven't we been doing this routine for four years now. So you got a few months off, time to get back to work, remember this?  I don't remember the beginning of milking season being so difficult before - I guess I gave them too much time off. They've been on vacation for too long.

Another week of this and we should all be re-trained. One cool thing that has just happened is that Zuri, our first time milker who lost her only doeling this year, has started caring for and nursing Xanadu's doeling, Bali. Bali is nursing off Zuri frequently and keeping her drained through the day. If I was counting on Zuri's milk this wouldn't be good, but as Bali is one of triplets and the smallest, and growing slowly, and Zuri is lonely, well it works out for everyone, and I get to skip the nine p.m. milking for another couple months, until we sell most the kids.

In other news, one row of shelling peas is in the ground, along with the first sowing of scallions, beets and the fava beans. The beds are covered with plastic mulch to keep the heat and moisture in. I'm about two weeks behind last year in planting, and our spring is about two weeks behind. The birch still haven't leafed out and greenup has yet to come to Fairbanks.

We have bees now. I can't wait to check on them. If today had been a little warmer and sunny, I would have checked on them. On one of our nicer days this week I counted about thirty bees entering the hive per minute, all loaded up with pollen on their legs.

Dustin is out building me a second milking stand. Having two stands will help in a number of ways. Milking won't take as long as I'll be able to start on the next doe without waiting for the doe I just milked to finish her grain. Also, we need to start getting the younger does use to the stand so we don't have some of the same problems we are having now, next year.

It still looks like fall out, brown, cold and blustery. Is summer ever going to get here?  Sixties would be lovely, but I'll settle for mostly sunny and no wind. I am so ready for summer. Ready for bare-footed dirty children, wet children splashing in the baby pool, children dripping with watermelon or cherry juice.


Denise said...

Emily, I'm sorry for your milking troubles, but I'm grateful to hear my bunch isn't the only bunch who are complete ninnies! All but one are FFs, which keeps things interesting. Looking forward to freshening some of our other girls who might not be such pains! Out of this batch of milkers, I only have one who is really patient.

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