Thursday, August 29, 2013

Less stressful Milking routine

I am a huge fan of our current milking routine and am trying to figure out how to replicate it in the future. There are a few different factors that have led to our more laid back routine. The one big change we made this year was to not separate the kids from their dams at night. As a result we get less milk, but we still got enough to meet our needs. We have one doe, Zuri who we milked through the year, so she has been in milk for a year and a half and has not had kids on her since last summer. She has been our steady producer, giving us about seven cups of milk in the morning while keeping in good condition herself. Her yield is nothing impressive, but it has held steady since mid winter, and I am content with the quality of her milk as well as her body condition. I have also been milking Zinnia who has had just one doeling nursing off one side of her udder all summer. So every morning I milk off her full side and get around six cups of milk from her. Xanadu also had one doeling nursing off her, and there was usually at least a few cups of milk in her udder if not more. Now, this wouldn't work obviously as well if the doe had multiple kids. There is a good chance you'd get out there and find your doe dry no matter how early you got out to milk. In some ways I just got lucky. However, a friend of mine discovered a medical tape that works to tape up a doe's teats and the kids don't usually succeed in getting it off. I tend to just refer to it as teat tape. The tape that seems to work the best is called Micropore 3M. They sell it in town at our medical supply store by the roll or by the case. I apply it to the doe's clean teat after milking, one three inch strip vertically covering the orifice and then a slightly longer strip starting just under the teat and spiraling upwards. The size up tape strip depends somewhat on the size of teats. In the morning before milking you can roll the tape down with a repetitive down motion with your hands, or a damp clean rag works as well. You will need to play around with the amount of time the tape is on the does teats ( twelve hours or less) -depending on the doe's production as the tape can get uncomfortably tight and the udder too full.

Taping teats allows for a few things, first and foremost; almost guaranteed milk in the morning. Occasionally an overzealous kid manages to get it off, mostly if it wasn't on properly. After you've got the hang of it though they usually don't get it off. Taping teats also allows the dame to continue to spend the night with her kid and you don't have to have a separate pen for kids. As a side consequence of this, sometime the kids are less skittish of us as they don't equate my presence in their pen at night as an ominous foreboding of a night in captivity without their dam; they don't run from me - and I don't have to ever chase or catch them.

Right now I can milk Xanadu in the morning, let her spend the day with her three month old doeling who can nurse as she pleases. Then if I want to I can put Xanadu on the stand in the evening, by then her udder is usually mostly empty, and I an put tape on her teats if I want more milk in the morning. Or I can just let things slide, just toss hay in the evening, leave them together and still get a few cups of milk in the morning.

Zinnia recently left for her new home so I'm down to milking Zuri and Xanadu. Ideally I'd start taping teats nightly now, but realistically I'll probably wait until after harvest when I have more time for cheese making. When I do start taping her teats I'll have to get down to the milk room earlier than I have been.

In the future my plan is to keep about four to five does but only breed two a year. I always want to milk one or two does through the year without re-breeding so that I have a couple does in milk without kids nursing off them. By fall when I have more time for cheese-making and when the kids are old enough, I can start taping the teats of the spring freshened does and get milk from them without having to separate or "wean" the kids. Eventually they just wean themselves if I'm consistent in applying teat tape both in the morning and evening.

This is our first summer not feeling rushed to get down to the barn. In the past there have been super full udders and a pen full of kids crying every morning. This is also my first year in a few years of not doing milk shares, not having to have a certain quantity of milk that I am committed to providing for other people. I am not trying to get maximum yields off my does. It would make sense in terms of money; I already own the doe, I'm feeding the doe, might as well milk her morning and night and get as much milk as possible. This is one way to look at it. However, I feel good knowing that the kids are getting all the milk they want, which should help them grow bigger faster. And I currently don't have the time and energy for milking twice a day, or even putting Xan on the stand at night to tape her teats even though it just takes a minute.

When I look back at the last five years and see everything I was doing while my kid's were infants. toddlers etc. I feel like a haze has lifted and I'm seeing more clearly. I can still have fresh milk to meet our needs without milking multiple goats, without milking twice a day and without separating kids. If I were recommending a plan to someone who is just getting into dairy goats for their own personal consumption. I'd recommend two well behaved milkers. Depending on how they produce you might milk them both through a year and re-breed one in the fall and milk the second one through another year. Or breed one in October and the other in January. You dry off your October doe in January a couple months before she kids. Then the January doe you milk until March. By then you have a doe about due or freshened already. And you can start sneaking a couple cups here and there to balance out her udder. After a few weeks you can put her one the stand and milk her out as chances are the kid's aren't draining her yet even though they are together constantly. When you need more milk than the kid's are leaving you, start taping her teats at night so you can have all her milk in the a.m. As the years go on you can just breed one doe each year and that way you always have milk. This will lower your overall feed bill as you won't be feeding and raising as many kids as if you re- breed both does every year, and you will have less kids to deal with and find homes for, because it is not always as easy as it should be to sell kids and it is a hassle. If you can keep yourself to two does in the winter, you will find that their milk pays for their feed bill - and that is what we want.


Tonya Gunn said...

Wow, this is so reassuring as this is a lot of what we were thinking with our two does. I hope to have them both bred in November and then only milk them in the morning. Breed the smaller of the two in the fall again, but milk the other through. I also want to leave the babies with the moms - not sure about the tape yet,so will probably have to separate at night.
Thanks for taking the time to type all of this.

Rose said...

Isn't it amazing how long it takes to finally learn a milking routine that isn't terribly dreadful? I have been raising goats for 10 years and FINALLY figured out that I only want 4 permanent goats and only need to milk 1-2 at any one time. So instead of breeding all 4 and being overwhelmed with kids and milk, I will be breeding 1-2 and be happy. Plus only breeding 2 out of four allows me to keep my wethered Angora as a permanent goat and then I can have one replacement goat (either too old to milk or too young, depending on the year). So 2 milkers and 2 extras is my happy place.

Happy goating!!!

Emily said...

Rose, I agree, four is about the perfect number and my goal. I think this is my last winter keeping bucks and then I'm just going to start making a long drive.

Tonya, I look forward to hearing how your goats do once they've kidded and are in milk. I can tell you've put a lot of thought into all of your decisions - and I remember back when you were trying to decide what you wanted. I have a feeling things will go well for you - I'll bet you can't wait to have your own milk.

Keren S said...

Emily, I found the tape and have been using it. I dont use as much as you mention, for one Bramble doesn't stay still very well and two Desert Rose,aka Rosie, doesn't try to get the tape off. What do you think of the name of the doeling? Thought I would honor the name of Rose by naming her granddaughter after her and mother and daughter now share simliar names! Took me 4 months to name her but the name seems to stick. She is a sweet little girl.

Where in the future are you going to take your goats to be bred? Need to find some options since I won't always have you. ;( Thanks!

Rose said...

I agree on not over-wintering bucks. Some years I try to keep them through the winter but usually when the snow starts I freak out about feeding male goats all winter long for only 5 minutes worth of work each fall. Then I dump them on Craigslist and start the buck hunt over again the following fall.

My main way of taking on the buck dilemma is to hold a buck kid from the spring and use him for breeding in the fall. I do that two years in a row and then borrow/buy a new buck. It seems to work pretty well. The buckling I keep for breeding is usually least related to the rest of the herd that I plan to breed him to.

Emily said...

Rose, your buck plan is exactly what I was thinking about doing from now on. They just get too hard to handle when they get really big as well - partly because I'm not great at handling them. From what I can tell from your past two comments, we are of one mind when it comes to herd management numbers and bucks. Thanks for your input.

Keren, I absolutely love the name Desert Rose. When we bred Rose last fall and I had my fingers crossed, I had thought if we had a doeling that would be what we'd name her. Love it! Rosie is such a great name. It is the only name we've had for multiple animals -well Rose the doe and Rosie the goose, and they were both such great animals. As far as the teat tape, my doe Xanadu whose teats I'm taping, are huge, like at least three inches long and broad at the top as well. And Zuri and Xoe's teats are all big too. So I haven't taped any first timers teats in a while which would easily explain the amount of difference. As far as bucks go, did you read Rose's comments above about her buck routine - that is kinda what I'm thinking. I have two bucks to use this fall. I plan on butchering the older one by December and possibly keeping the buckling through till next fall. So we'll be good for this breeding season. I might take a year off if I get everyone bred this fall and then buy a buck in two years from now. Otherwise, I might check in with the Skidmore's and see if they still have the nice buck out of Rose I sold them a while back. Finally as a last resort I thought I could always find a Nigerian Dwarf buck in good health to breed to locally. Best wishes going into winter.