My first summer milking the does, I milked on any level place I could find in the garden, that was in the sun, as the mosquitoes are not as bad away from the shade. I moved the milk stand into the greenhouse, in between the tomatoes and winter squash when it rained. In the winter, I milked outside their pen, in as cold of weather as thirty below zero. I tried milking in their stall, but it was too much work to move the stand in and out. When I tried to leave it in their stall, they ate it.
My second summer, I milked inside a large tent that had a roof with mesh walls. It kept the rain and mosquitoes out. The doe stall and milking tent were above the garden which is about a hundred steep yards above the house. I would walk up with Avery on my back, either carrying the totes, pail and teat dip, and Noah walking along beside, or I'd pull behind a wagon. Either way, it was a tremendous amount of work just to get up the hill. When I look back on it, I think I was absolutely crazy - maybe I still am. I did have friend's coming up a couple days out of the week to help with milking, so I think I usually was just up there three to four days a week with both kids. I kept a play and pack in the tent in which I'd put nine month Avery in when she'd let me. Otherwise she was on my back. I would bob up and down singing to pacify her. Two year old Noah was often a big help shaking rattles for her and such. That winter we moved the does into a barn below our house. I was able to milk in an unheated, uninsulated, door-less structure, that at least kept the wind and snow out.
This last year has been more of the same. Until this fall when the structure-(the downstairs to our new addition on to our current house - he calls it "the man cave") now boasts windows, a door, slate floor and most impressively; a large efficient wood stove.
Our milking area is going to continue to change and improve for some time, as I imagine will our milking and feeding regime. But this is where we are at now. The above picture is what our current grain mixture looks like on morning three after soaking and almost sprouting the grains.
- Morning 1, Soak 3pts whole barley, 2 pts whole oats, 2 pts black oil sunflower seeds, 1 pt hard red winter wheat berries. Stir in 1/2 cup home brewed kombucha vinegar. (about 32 cups grain, guessing about nine pounds?)
- Night 1, drain grains into five gallon bucket with holes, inside a hole less five gallon bucket.
- Morning 2, rinse grains and leave sit till the following morning.
- Morning 3 stir in 1/4 cup molasses, 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup Diamond V Nutritional yeast supplement. I feed each milker 8-10 cups of grain mixture, about 2 - 21/2 pounds
I have two does that look like they could use some extra calories, and I often give them extra grain. I recently bought a bag of beet pulp that I've been introducing slowly. When the goats are done with their grain I put a cup of beet pulp in their dish. Some of them eat it and some don't, but they seem to be growing more fond of it. I have heard that it should help keep the weight on. The main concern seems to be that all beet pulp is made from genetically modified beets. Right now, I'm more concerned with providing food that meets their nutritional needs.
In addition to the grain, the goats receive Brome hay, free choice, twice daily, Alfalfa nightly, about a couple pounds per head. They have mineral feeders with Sweetlix dairy goat mineral supplement, baking soda and kelp granules.
Here is just a random shot of what I've got thawing, soaking and sprouting the morning I was taking pictures. On the left is a gallon of Copper River Red fish eggs, thawing for the chickens. I've been feeding about a gallon a week in an attempt to meet their protein needs- they love em. In the middle are organic whole peas soaking for the chickens, another protein boost. On the right is the next day's goat grain ration.
Bali, who is the only doeling I am definitely not planning on breeding this year. She was born in April and the runt of triplets and is just too small.
This is how I cool the milk while I milk the rest of the does. It works very well. Cold water, ice packs. I happen to have chest freezer space close by which makes this more convenient than if I had to carry them from the house.
Bramble Rose left, and dam, Rose on right.
Above, is the notorious Zinnia. I don't mean to make her sound horrible. She can be very sweet. I think she is a very pretty doe, and her udder and teats are great for a first timer. One teat is lopsided because of an incident with her doelings nursing on only one side early on. The milk flows out easily which is one of the best parts.
Xanadu on the left, Zinnia on the right. I usually finish milking the does before they finish their grain, so I stagger them. I take the doeling out and bring the next doe in. I started with Bramble and Rose, then took Bramble out, gave Rose extra grain, brought Zinnia in, then took Rose out, gave Zinnia extra grain and brought Xan in. They don't always eat all their grain, and I don't always think they need extra, it just depends on the goat and how they are looking to me that day.
After all the does are back in their pen, I toss hay, haul water, sometimes sweep and mop depending on how wet the floor already is, then put the ice packs back and haul the milk and used towels up to the house. I didn't always chill the milk and instead would process milk and then have to go back out and clean up, toss hay etc. The milk cools better in the cooler than it does in the fridge or sitting outside or in the snow, so I don't feel as rushed any more to get the milk processed as it is chilling already. Usually I mix and rinse grain in between milking goats, so that is done already. I take a bucket of extra grain up to the chickens and bucks.
And that is a typical morning. As always I am interested in how other goat owners go about things, so feel free to add in your two cents, or to ask any questions if I left anything out.