Saturday, June 4, 2011

Udders, teats and orifices - and milk tastings

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.

 Above is Xanadu. This is her third freshening. Xanadu has been our favorite goat to milk because of her teat shape, since our first year milking. However, this year, they are just too big for my hands! They have gotten bigger every year, which they tend to do. She has a nice udder. Fine but never phenomenal yield, this year she is averaging about five lb. She doesn't put everything in to milk, which is a good thing sometimes. I don't have to worry about her body condition, she is an easy keeper. We have always loved the shape of her teats, wider at the top, (but not too wide) narrow at the bottom. They are very comfortable and easy to milk - but they have gotten big enough that my hands have to work to hard to get the milk out. This is a personal preference. If Dustin was milking, or another man, or someone with big hands, they would probably love milking her. She has good teat placement. They angle in a bit - which is better than out. And, I think, overall her udder would hold up just fine in the show ring.

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.


Unknown said...

Loved reading about your udders! I'm milking three FFs and one second freshener (half La Mancha - she has a great udder), so I'm really able to understand and relate to what you wrote. We haven't gotten to drink any milk yet - been letting it go to our bottle babies so they aren't raised completely on replacer. Plus, buying milk for the family is cheaper than replacer for the goat kids. One more month, and the milk is all ours! :) I'd be interested in hearing what your routine is as far as udder care before and after milking. How do you clean udders, do you keep the girls shaved (just a milking clip or full body?), do you use teat dip? What kind? Thanks for being so transparent, Emily! :-)

Emily said...

Denise , I've got about three goat posts in my head I've been intending to write, our procedure and how it has evolved are one. So, I clip the does udders before they kid and then when needed. I make a teat dip up in bulk, keep it in a glass gallon jar with a spout (lemonade picnic jar) I put a few drops of Dr. Bronners lavender castille soap, tea tree essential oil (anti-fungal), grape fruit seed extract (anti-bacterial), and sometimes some other essential oils. I use it to wash their udders and my hands between goats. I have done a teat dip before and after until this year- i just don't feel like it is necessary. I do discard the first few streams on each side before milking into the pail. Right now I'm just washing with soap and water and then I pour boiling water over everything for a rinse. I've tried the dairy soaps and sanitizers, I feel that they are too toxic for my home. I started out using clorox for everything, teat dips and daily pail sanitation etc. and I developed an allergic reaction and bizarre toxic sensitivity to it.

So far the only off flavors I've had have been diet related, or rather due to the goats not getting enough of what they need and putting too much into their milk.

I do have the hoegger dairy sanitizers that I can fall back on if needed. But I hate using them. I have to wear gloves. And I'm not suppose to breathe the sanitizer, which when sprayed is impossible not to do. So that is where I'm at right now.

Aimee said...

Maybe this is icky, but I don't wash udders or tears at all unless there is an obvious situation, in which case the milk goes to the dogs anyway. I do discard the first couple of squirts, but that's all. No wiping sipping or washing. In five years of milking four does (20 milk years) I have had only one case of mastitis and no human illnesses.

Emily said...

Aimee, I think that washing udders is a little above and beyond. We've gone back and forth. In the winter when I am milking at twenty below I do not wash my hands in between goats, nor do I wash their udders. WE've never been sick either and we just had our first case of mastitis, it was mild and just on one side of a doe whose kids weren't nursing on both sides.

I feel a little more responsible now that we are selling goat shares and handling and delivering milk to shareholders- who are outside our immediate family. But never seem that dirty and often teat dips or udder washes are drying and too harsh. The biggest concern is hooves in the pail, and then we give it to the chickens. Cheers, Emily

Anonymous said...

That was just fascinating! Thanks so much for that incredibly detailed assessment, as someone hoping to raise goats it is wonderful to read in such detail, and from another woman who's challenges I can understand!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this really informative post. I just bought my first two does. Your post is helping me to understand a lot more about the seemingly subtle (but not subtle, as it turns out) differences in udders. One of my new does is a first freshener who has one teat which is very small -- maybe a little past my second finger when I milk. The other teat is a more comfortable size, it comes down a bit past my third finger. They both appear healthy but she balks when I milk the little teat. Her milk tastes a tiny bit bitter with a little metallic aftertaste. There are no particles whatsoever in her milk. I understand the teats will grow larger with the second freshening, but do you guess they will even out, or have any idea of the problem?

Emily said...

Hey anonymous, so I have some experience with lopsided teats. I have one doe that has always preferred her kids to nurse off of one side rather than the other, and I have often had to milk the other side out and encourage her kids to milk off the big side. To this day her teats are incredibly lopsided and always will be. I have a doe who freshened this year, she favored one side and the other grew to enormous proportions during the first days after kidding. I had to hold her down and milk her out for several days before she allowed her kids to nurse off the bigger teat. She is now lopsided, and I think she will always be a bit so, but I'm hoping that she will even out with her next freshening, I won't know for sure till next year.
So both my experiences have been with the big teat being the side the doe does not like milked. In your case I'm not sure what is going on. But I would be sure to treat both sides the same way and not be tentative about milking the small teat or you will encourage her stompiness or balking if she thinks it works.

As far as milk taste. my experience has been that taste is pretty much diet related, if the milk tastes off or a little bitter coming right out of the goat. I would look at what she is being fed, and what might be lacking in her diet. Is she skinny? raggedy? I have a handsome looking doe right now, great coat, good weight, and her milk has still been bitter off and on. I am thinking she just needs to be dried off. She is on her fourth year of being bred and milked repetitively and has not had much time off. I am trying to give her extra grain, alfalfa etc. I have two does whose milk just tastes thinner, less fatty, and my first fresheners have the best tasting creamiest milk and they look the best. I think this is a good example and lesson of what it takes to be bred and milked year after year without breaks. So, good luck, I'll be interested in hearing about your experiences. Emily

Christine said...

Had a question... We had sold a pregnant first freshener. She was just maybe 2mos preg when we sold her. As far as we could see she seemed like she was going to be an excellent milking doe. The new owner now emailed and said that she freshened (triplets 2d and 1b, b died) but that only one side of her udder was in milk, the other side was flat. We have never seen this in the 12 years we have been doing milk goats... have you ever seen this? So the one good side is very large and she feels like it should be enough to raise these 2 doelings, but is very angry and wants to trade this doe for another doe in milk or wants a refund??? Not only do we not have another doe in milk to sell/trade, but we can't take this doe back from her because in the past she has had CL on her property...It is very unfortunate, like I said, we have never seen this...but now she feels like this doe is a butcher goat and not a milking goat and wants us to make it right. Have you ever seen this? What is your thoughts on this? Thanks! Christine

Emily said...

Christine, I do not have any experience with only one side of an udder filling or working properly. I would have to do some research on the subject to be able to comment on that.

However, I do have some thoughts on what I'd do in your situation. I am not sure what the general protocol for this is with other goat owners as I just haven't been selling goats for that long. but here are my thoughts,
1. If a buyer wants to make sure the doe is going to have a nice working udder she should by a milker - no one can guarantee a does udder before she has ever freshened. The buyer gambled. There is a reason doelings and yearlings are cheaper than milkers- other than just the milk factor.

2. If you asked top dollar for the doe and you feel like being an extra nice goat seller, you could offer her some of her money back- but I really don't think this is necessary or required. I don't really think you owe her. I think that if it were me and the buyer were being polite I might offer them some of the money back if I had not already given them a deal. If they were not being nice about it and if they were not my neighbor :)I would apologize and point out that you haven't ever had this problem and are not sure what caused it but you are sorry.

3. I would suggest that she sell the milker and her two doelings to someone else, even with the half udder, she could discount the doe and doelings to someone looking for a bargain, then use that money to buy herself a nice milker elsewhere.

4. Even if she butchers the milker once the doelings are weaned, I would think she would be getting her money back by having two doelings which she can either keep or sell.

Well, let me know how it goes. I'm curious to know how common this is. I would think it would be genetic. Best wishes, Emily