Above is a picture of Zinnia's udder. Udders, teats and orifices vary in size and shape, and some traits are clearly more desirable than others. Entering our fourth season in milking, I'm beginning to have a clearer idea of my ideal udder. We are also getting to see how udders and teats change over time. Zinnia is a first timer. She is producing about four pounds of milk (1/2 gallon) for morning milking, and then her two rapidly growing doelings are keeping her pretty drained throughout the day. Her udder is a pleasant shape, high and wide. The teat placement is great, they point down, for the most part. The size is good, not too big, not too small. The shape of her teats make for easy milking. And the orifice at the tip of each teat is good size, so the milk comes out easy. Zinnia is an ideal first freshener. She has one teat which is larger than the other because when her kids were just a few days old, she had a teat get chapped and raw. I didn't catch it right away and she didn't let her doelings nurse off that side, so one side became engorged and then I had to milk her out for a week on that side, because her entire teat was a scabby wound - as a result I'm guessing one teat will always be a bit bigger.
Below is a picture of Zuri's udder, also a first timer. This picture of Zuri is not as impressive as Zinnia's. She has been averaging about 3 lbs. Her udder shows some promise. For one it is not droopy or pendulous. She does have good teat placement. The best part is the shape of her teats, They are not too narrow or too wide, nor are they too big - they are my favorite teat shape. They also point straight down. And, to top it off she has the biggest orifices. As a result, milking Zuri is a dream. She is my favorite goat to milk. Combined with her personality and willing and patient behavior for a first time milker, she is my absolute favorite goat. I expect that she will produce a significant amount more next freshening.
Below is Xoe's udder. Xoe has the weakest udder of all our milkers. It hangs lower down, somewhat pendulous. Her teats are huge, too big for me - it makes milking more of a work out - maybe fine if you are just milking a couple goats, but I tend to leave Xoe for last and then my hands just can't get the job done all the way. (Today I milked her earlier in the lineup and that helped). Not only are Xoe's teats different sizes, they also angle out, and they are too wide at the top, which makes getting the milk down, more work for hands. So, when I milk Xoe, I have to angle her teats in towards the pail, which is just one more thing to thinkk about when squeezing. To top all this off her orifices are smaller than anyone elses, so while they are not super small and tiny, they are smaller, which means it takes longer to get the milk out.
All this complaining and I still think Xoe is a decent milking doe. She has a great body. She is a willing milker, who can be very sweet. She is a decent mom. She is putting out between five and six pounds of milk in the morning and then feeding her sons all day. If she was someone's only milker, they may not mind these faults. I am selling Xoe this year. I do plan on asking a fair price for her, and I'm waiting for the right family.
So, here is Rose, totally lopsided, which happens, especially when she has a doeling who prefers one side over the other. Her son left for his new home this past week, and ever since, Rose has been lopsided - so apparently the left side must have been his. Rose is our highest producer and strongest milker. She has been bred every year, milked through the first three months of each gestation, because she just keeps producing. She does tend to put everything in to making milk, so I do have to watch her weight. Her udder shape is my favorite, high, wide and round (not so much round in this pic). Her teats have great placement, size and shape. Her orifice size is also fine. If I were to change one thing about Rose, I would change the shape of her teats just a bit to be a little wider at the top. I think Rose has a strong and lovely mammary system. She has produced up to eight pounds in one milking (that's a gallon folks). This year she has been in the five to six pound range. We've had some diet adjustments that we are finally catching up from, so I expect to see Rose improve over the season.
And now for milk tasting. We've been milking everyone and keeping their milk separate, once a week so we can do taste tests. We had a couple does with mild ketosis symptoms and one with mastitis, and their milk was off tasting for a while so we were tasting it daily and deciding whether it went to the chickens or into the milk tote. Thankfully, everyone's milk is tasting as it should. I think milk should taste clean, creamy, smooth and subtle. There should be no strong sweetness, or other perceptible flavors, including the aftertaste. It has been interesting to see how everyone's milk tastes and how it changes from week to week. Zuri and Rose have had the best tasting milk, creamier and smoother than the rest. Avery is our milk drinker. She loves to drink milk, but she is not very discerning about subtle taste differences.
Well, the kids are in bed. It is another phenomenal Fairbanks night. Sunny and clear, blue skies at ten p.m. The lure to head up to the garden is strong, if only the mosquitoes were not so ferocious. I'm at least heading out to say goodnight to the goats, and shut their door so they can escape the majority of mosquitoes. Goodnight.