Monday, 24 February 2014

My goat milking experience

I've always said this blog was about our attempts to change our lifestyle.  There have been plenty of up-and-downs along the way!

One thing I am very keen to do is to provide our own milk.  We've previously owned a cow for that purpose but we couldn't keep the water up to her during the last drought.  We sent her to my in-laws to live.

Then we acquired a couple of young milking goats that had never had kids.  We had them for a while and really struggled with fencing issues.  Eventually we admitted defeat and gave the goats to some friends.  They already had milkers and were happy to have two more in the mix.
Daisy and Argoo
One of my girls died after her first kid was born.  The other came back here to live recently and she was in milk.  Finally my milking journey had begun after six years of dreaming!!  I can't tell you how excited I was to milk for the first time.  And the milk was wonderful!  I have heard that goats milk tastes funny but that was not what I found.  When the children tried it for the first time, their three comments were, "Yummmm!, WOW, and Awesome!"  Not bad, hey?  We all know how fussy children are.
Now, we weren't actually expecting to get the goats when we did.  It was pretty sudden, so we had a mad period of creating a new paddock during a heat wave.  One day was forty five degrees Celsius and we fenced right though.  We didn't have a bale to milk in, a pen for the kids or anything.  Goats need company so Daisy came back with her daughter Argoo (Turkish for White Rose) and her two kids.

Next on the list was to buy the book Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby.  I thoroughly recommend it.  Then we started making a shelter.
A week into milking, I went to feed the goats one morning.  I noticed Daisy's face was very swollen.  Her breathing was noisy so I called the vet.  It seems she had a grass seed in her mouth and, not only her face but her throat was swollen which was causing her problems.  Antibiotics required.  Damn!  Nineteen days before we can safely drink the milk!  The vet and I decided to test for worms as well. 

The next day I spent quite a bit of time in the paddock waiting for some nice, fresh samples.  While I was there I caught the two kids feeding from Daisy!  "Hey guys, that's MY milk!!"  They are not Daisy's babies and shouldn't be stealing milk from her.
Around this time, we received a small amount of rain.  It came with a storm of lightning and wind.  Goats hate being in the wind and rain.  Hmmm.  We haven't finished that shelter yet.  Okaaay!  Need to build a shelter.  Right now!!  With Hubby at work!!!  I threw my children in front of a DVD (much to their surprise) and began dragging bits of tin down to the corner of the paddock.  Half an hour or more later, huffing and puffing and frightened out of my wits by the lightning, I made the mad dash to our house on the very top of the hill.   I was so sure I would get fried by a bolt from the sky!
We kept bringing Daisy up each night for her milking session.  We wanted to keep her milk up and also to keep her in routine.  Trouble is, there wasn't much milk.  Obviously the kids were drinking more than was acceptable.  The little I managed to get, I used for a milk mash for the chooks.

Two days after the grass seed episode I found Daisy in the paddock looking miserable.  She didn't want to walk up to be milked and hated me touching her.  Again the vet was called.  We couldn't find anything wrong but she was in obvious pain.  By the next day she was fine again.

So by now, things weren't looking good.  Daisy's milk was undrinkable and was disappearing before our eyes.  Argoo's milk was likely to dry up if her kids stopped drinking from her.  We would be left with no milk!

That's when we decided a pen was top of the priority list.  We could put the kids in there until milking time so there would be some in the udder for us.  Well that was until we got the call from the vet!  The goats do have worms, and quite badly.  I am very lucky to have my vet.  She is very respectful of my wishes to raise the animals naturally.  We have decided to try a natural drench and retest after two weeks.  If there are still worms present, then I will use conventional wormers.

Anyway, it's been a trying two weeks but we have decided to stop milking to give the goats a rest while they get back to full health and get rid of the worms.  We will have some time to set up well before we start milking again.  We'll mate them in the Autumn and hopefully will be milking successfully in Spring.

Despite all the drama, I haven't been put off the idea of milking one little bit.  On the contrary, I have had a little taste, loved it, and can't wait to try again!


Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Goats are NEVER easy, but ALWAYS worth it!
Hang on in there, you won't regret it.

purplepear said...

Wow what a story. Good on you for sticking with it. Having your own milk is very much worth it I would say.

Lynda D said...

I love the way you are such a GO TO girl. Got a problem, fix it. If only everyone else would stop whinging about their lot and do the same. Well done for carrying on the in the storm.

Anonymous said...

Oh goodness me you've had a challenging start to goatkeeping. My friends also have goats and their beginning has been as rocky as yours. We followed their lead and acquired Anna, the lovely but malnourished British Alpine and as we discovered 3-4 months later, 2 extras that came along for the ride. Anna lost her kids one freezing night, premature stillborn. :( We then had the milking routine to follow but due to her malnourishment (we'd been feeding her up but she is missing half her teeth so hasn't been able to effectively graze and with the kids on board she simply couldn't gain the weight she needed) she also had no milk. Drying her up met us with a round of mastitis in each teat (caught very early thankfully) and since then she has had a mating attempt with a buck who believes he's a stallion and wasn't interested and then a month away at her previous home where we believe she's been mated. She now looks sleek and healthy and here's hoping in June. :) She is quite happy to be alone is our Miss Anna but we recently acquired a Toggenberg Boer cross (with an impeccable but unregisteed Toggy miling line behind her) who we hope to breed in 12 months or so as well.
So wonderful to see another British Alpine too and how wonderful to find another pat Coleby fan. It's a great book hey.

Kim said...

You are going on the journey we have been on for some time...there are ups and downs ,Linda ...but it will be worth it.
Just email me(address in the blog at the top) if you need any help but it sounds like your vet and yourself are doing a great job.
Love the Pat Coleby book - I think I read it whenever there is a problem.

Linda said...

Hi Gill, thanks for your encouragement. I had a peek at your blog and it's great!

Kate, I can't wait to have our own milk on a regular basis and look forward to learning more about goats.

Hi Lynda, thank you. And yes, I was 'carrying on' alright! I'm a sook being outside I a storm!

Hi RLHippy, Wow! Sounds like it's always challenging! Crossing my fingers for you. You might be milking soon!

Kim, good to hear two others use the book. You're firmly in my mind as backup coz you seem to take it all in your stride.

Fiona from Arbordale Farm said...

Wow what a roller coaster few weeks. I really like the idea of goats but want to learn more about them so I am glad you mentioned a good book as that was going to be one of my questions. If we do go down the goat path it will not be until we are in NZ as I am not willing to invest in the required fencing only to sell up and move. I am looking forward to hearing more about your goat adventures.