Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Morning goat milking routine

Our goat milking routine and our milking area have evolved dramatically over the past four years. Prior to milking my own goats, I had never milked a goat or seen anyone milk a goat. I learned by trial and error, after reading online about how to milk a goat. Thankfully I have a local goat expert I was able to consult when I had challenges such as what to do when the new milkers were putting on a rodeo while I tried to milk them.

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.

  1. 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?)
  2. Night 1, drain grains into five gallon bucket with holes, inside a hole less five gallon bucket.
  3. Morning 2, rinse grains and leave sit till the following morning.
  4. 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 
Note, as the grain soak and swell, the weight of the grain increases. I usually have several cups leftover of soaked grain mix. I take it up to the bucks when I'm done milking, who each get between two and three cups. The chickens also get a couple scoops most mornings. Usually the sunflower seeds are sprouted. If I wait another morning the oats and barley sprout, but by then the grains are starting to get a bit funky, which the does do not like. In the future I may play around with drying the rinsed grains in a shallower wider tub that allows for better air circulation. I recently added the vinegar to help combat funky grains - and I figured it could only help improve digestion and nutritional value.

 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.

I am slightly embarrassed to take pictures from this angle, not because of goat's hind ends, but rather for how messy the other end of the room is. But it is a work in progress. We currently do not have a garage, or very many places to store things safely, out of the rain, snow and cold etc. So at the end of the room are our back up refrigerator, two chest freezers (which will someday be outside), and lots of tools. The far side of this room will be our future milk area, with a poured concrete floor and drains, as opposed to the slate floor, which was intended for the family/game room, currently the milking area.

Zuri on the right and her ADOPTED daughter, Bali on the left. For the last six weeks or so, I've been bringing out the doelings with the milkers, to get them used to the milking stand, and get them handled frequently. We tend to handle the doelings a lot their first few months, and then slack off. They turn into wild things quickly. Last year we had three first fresheners. Zuri was amazing about behaving on the milk stand. Asia was ok. Zinnia has been horrible, but is now much improved. I take the blame for not handling her enough as a yearling. She did not want us near her kids nor herself. She would try and bite us when we first starting milking her. Most mornings with Zinnia are uneventful, but she tends to be a bit jumpy and gets nervous easily. I don't think I am ever going to make the time to work with Zinnia through her fear's, which I why I am most likely selling her this spring. Anyway, I have learned from my mistakes, and we are now handling the doelings daily in hopes that they will be more bonded with us during their first labors, and better behaved milkers from the start.
Milk pail under goat, ready for milking. I'm a huge fan of this half moon lid, keeps most debris out. Before I start to milk, I clean the does teats and udder with a warm soapy rag, (solution of tea tree oil, grape fruit seed extract and lavender Dr. Bronners hemp castille soap). I discard the first few streams of milk into an old quart yogurt tub just for that purpose, but I have plans to buy a stainless steel strip cup with the woven mesh inset soon.

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.

To any non farmer, this area looks a mess. But just about everything here is needed; medical supplies, nutritional supplements, gallon jars of dried herbs and legumes for sprouting, etc. Note my gallon jar of teat dip, left on the counter, my notebook in which I write down everyone's yield, and my clean pail and tote top right.

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. 


PatsyAnne said...

Where do you find the time? I can't imagine a routine as busy each morning as yours. You still have to make breakfast for your family, do your household chores, home schooling, cooking, - my mind boggles! And you still find time to blog. Good heavens woman - you need some rest! Take care, spend a few minutes just relaxing and enjoy the upcoming holiday season!

Buttons Thoughts said...

Emily Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful family. You are a very smart woman I love reading your learning process.

Anonymous said...

How I do things? Well, I want to do things more like you do things! I am sure it will flush out a bit this spring as our does kid, but at the moment we don't have any in milk. I think the one issue I am going to have this spring is getting the does in and out of 'general population' for milking... That and I hope to have them on pasture (about 200 yards from where I am planning on milking, and where they kid) so I may end up with some kind of 'mobile milking station' (with a sun cover, and secure place for grain)
And we are still trying to decide how to feed them....

Lindsey at NW Backyard Veggies said...

I totally agree with PatsyAnne - the time you spend on all these activities! But - we make time, money and energy for our priorities, right?

I do not have goats, but they fascinate me. I live in the city limits and can't have goats in our town, but I love to read what you are doing and live a little vicarious goat life through your writing!

Stay warm up there!

sus said...

So wonderful to see your setup! I don't bother icing the milk - I just put it in the fridge straight away. I know this makes others cringe but then so does raw milk. You let cheese sit out at room temp,right? And that culture just flavors it. So funny what some people freak over. Thanks for sharing!

Sustainable Eats said...

So wonderful to see your setup and wow the full udders! Sometimes I think I should ditch the mini goats - until I need to lift them up into the car. Thanks so much for sharing!!

Emily said...

Sus, I didn't chill my milk until this year.When I first heard of people chilling the milk I thought it was too much work and the milk seemed to be fine without it. Now that we are providing milk for other families I feel more liable. My milking routine is taking longer and longer the more goats I get on the stand each morning. I use to feel rushed to get the milk filtered and into the fridge. When I am turning all the milk into cheese I don't chill it, cause then I'd just to heat it back up.

Thanks for your input everyone, Emily

kb said...

I am just starting to raise SCI (San Clemente Island Goats) for their cashmere fiber and sweet milk. If this blog is still going, would love to read more. Thanks for sharing your morning as a busy mom with two young ones and a goat dairy to boot. God Bless and keep you safe, abetterwaywithme@aol.com - xo Goats, kay