milk!

Oooooh I am so excited! Guess what I’m having in my coffee this morning? Okay, the picture above probably gave it away, but yes! I am having goat’s milk from our very own goat!

I know there’s only about 3/4 a cup there, but believe me, it is a victory.  I’m not even going to go into the year plus of effort and learning we’ve put into becoming dairy goat people before this day even arrived. The barn building, the loss of our first doe, the adventure in breeding and bringing little kids into the world, not to mention all that hay. You’ve already heard all that. I’m just going to start with what happened yesterday.

Gina (my goating partner) and I decided that yesterday was going to be milking day number one.  Although neither of us had ever milked a goat before, we’d watched youtube videos and read books and I hoped it would be at least a little bit like milking a cow, with which I had some experience. So we got Peaches up onto the milking stand, sweet feed in the bucket, our little stripping cup at the ready. Oh so giddy were we!

Then we tried to touch her udder, and it became clear that this was not going to be easy. In fact, it took about 30 second for us to start thinking it might actually be impossible.

Peaches is, um, how shall I say, a headstrong gal. She’s a her-way-or-the-highway kind of goat. We’ve all gotten along pretty well but then, we haven’t really asked her to do anything for us before. Now there we were, fondling her parts like the milking virgins that we were, and she was not having any of it. She tried all the moves: yanking her head out of the stanchion and trying to make a run for it, kicking, bucking (that one could’ve sent a person to the hospital if she’d made contact), and sitting right down on top of her udder, the bucket, and our hands. We couldn’t get one drop of milk out of her. Not one drop.

Luckily, we had an appointment later on to meet with a Nigerian Dwarf breeder nearby to see about buying one of her does – because three baby wethers and another two already in the barn does not a dairy herd make. This kind lady offered to give Gina and I a milking lesson, on two different does so that we could get a sense of how each doe’s udder is a little different.

The first thing we learned is that our Peach has what they call bad milking manners. Yeah, to put it lightly. This woman’s goats were literally clambering to get onto the stanchion to be milked. And once up there they enthusiastically participated in the milk-for-grain exchange that is the dairymaid’s bargain.  No squirming and definitely no kicking, just standing there calmly munching away. Wow! The first doe had lovely big teats that were easy to handle but had tiny orifices so she was slow to milk. The second doe had smaller teats and an udder attachment that wasn’t ideal, but her orifices were huge and the milk just gushed out. We got a feel for how to get those little goat teats filled with milk before  squeezing from the top down.  It was a great experience, and Gina and I felt a renewed hope that we would be able to get Peaches to get on the bandwagon.

(We also picked out a new little doe to join our herd, but I’ll save that for another post.)

So this morning we set out to try it again.  Back to the barn we went, with our milking kit and a mason jar chilling in a bucket of ice.  It took a minute to get our stubborn mule of a goat onto the stanchion and into position, but we did.  Sitting down on the stanchion right beside her with our shoulder against her haunches (something else we learned from our lesson) and we reached under and grabbed hold and then yes! That telltale sound of a stream of milk against the side of the pail! Huzzah!

It wasn’t all perfect from then on. Once the sweet feed was all gone, Peaches sat on our hands again, and fussed in the stanchion. But we got some milk! And even better, we got a sense that this is going to get easier, that we’re all going to get comfortable with this, and it won’t be a battle forever.

We strained the milk right there in barn and poured it into the ice cold jar and put the jar back in the icy water. Then I brought it into to my house and took my first sip of fresh goat’s milk. Yes, my first. Talk about a leap of faith, I’ve done all this work to have a dairy goat and never tasted fresh goat’s milk before, nutty. It was delicious! Sweet and rich and not ‘goaty’ at all, which was a relief and a delight. I love the goatiness of goat cheeses, but I wasn’t all that excited about goaty coffee in the morning or goaty cereal. But all the blogs and books and experts were right about chilling down the milk right away. It’s tastes just like cow’s milk, except fresher and a bit sweeter. Lovely!

So, start up the band and play the victory march, we have milk at last!

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