OK, so one of the disavantages of building a herd for the ground up is that it takes several years to really figure out what you've got. You buy the best kids you can afford, but then you have to give them time to grow up before you truly know what you have. You can breed them at 7-12 months, but even so they are still growing. There are fine examples of first fresheners who start out with outstanding milk production. But there are also many fine dairy goats who take til their 3rd freshening before they really show what they can do. Take our first goat Birdie for example - I was told at her first freshening they were milking her out into a butter bowl! She had lost half her udder to a dog bite injury when I got her. Her 2nd freshening and my first time milking, I was happy with my little pint jars of milk. 3rd freshening she really took off and provided me with 1/2 a gallon a day on that one side! So my first lesson has been to be patient. Lily the second goat I bought is an Alpine/Nubian cross. First and second lactations I got around 1/2 a gallon a day from her at the peak of production. This is her 3rd freshening - she is still with her kids right now, but I tested her today after 6 hours separated from the kids and she gave me 2 lbs. Looks like she's turning out to be a gallon milker, which is my book is a respectable dairy goat.
I've been trying to figure out how my minis are doing. I have a 3rd freshener, 2nd freshener, and 1st freshener. I've never milked them before, so it's been and adventure trying to get an idea of what they are like. I separated the 3 for 6 hours today and then milked all 3. There was kicking, some spilled milk, baby goats diving for the udders while I tried to get the goats to my milk stand (*really* got to change the set up...) and other mishaps, but this is what I found.
Chinaberry (3rd freshening) pictured above gave 1 lb of milk. Nice udder, nice size teats, though I have found it easier to milk her with the Henry Milker (more on that later). She is nursing 2 kids - best estimate she is giving 3-4 lbs (1.5-2 quarts) a day.
Cherry (2nd freshening) is 75% Nigerian Dwarf. She gave 8 oz after 6 hours. She has a nice udder, but the teats are a little small and the stream is a little thin. I used the Henry Milker on her too. Somewhat surprisingly she behaves pretty well for milking - usually I find her to be too flighty for my taste. She is nursing 2 kids too - best estimate she is giving about 2 lbs (1 quart) a day.
Cranberry (1st freshening) gave 8 oz after 6 hours as well. She has a beautiful udder for a first freshener with nice sized teats that milk easily and a nice soft texture. This little goat is meant for milking - she hardly took any training at all. She is nursing just 1 kid - best estimate she is giving about 2 lbs (1 quart) a day. I am *confident* she will be an excellent producer in future years. She is still growing.
So not too bad, it's a start. I've read management has alot to do with milk production too, and I hardly replicate ideal management by pulling them from the kids whenever I need some milk. I don't feed alfalfa or large amounts of concentrates. I give lactating mini does 2 cups of 16% and 2 cups of beet pulp a day, grass hay and pasture when avaliable.
And on to the Henry Milker. Lovely Chinaberry with the sweet temperment, really isn't so lovely on the milk stand - she really doesn't care so much for having her udder handled. After a week of tag teaming her with my husband, I ordered a Henry Milker from this website (cheapest price) -
It is a very handy little device. Here are pictures -
For the price you get 2 lids with valves, 2 sets of tubing, 2 different size teat cups, and brushes for cleaning the milker. It fits any large mouth jar (it comes with a quart jar). I thought it was a pretty decent deal, cause by the time we would have driven around getting all the supplies, I probably would have spent a good penny making one.
The instructions suggest putting some liquid or even vaseline on the edge of the teat cup before putting it on the goat. I did not find that good advice. For one thing it made too tight a seal, and it was hard for me to pump, and secondly, vaseline worked down the teat came in contact with the milk, not a good thing. It don't find is as easy as pump it up and drink a cup of coffe while the milk flows - maybe my goats will settle into it so I could do that, but not so far. Instead I pump it up, then have to bump the udder to keep the milk letting down. It slowly looses pressure so I have to pump it back up every few seconds - which I think is a good thing cause it is more like a natural sucking motion. The pumping does make my hand tired. There is no way I could ever pump it up too high, it's too much work!! But it is worth it cause it really helps draw those smaller teats down. And it's easier to train the goats to it than hand milking.
My one real complaint would be the glass jar. I worry about it getting broken as my milk stand is several cinder blocks pushed together. I took me 3 days to train Chinaberry to it. You have to be patient and overcome the learning curve - the goat has to learn too. When the goat is dancing around the valves can get loosened and will need to be tightened up in order to get a vaccum. The Henry Milker does not eliminate work, but I think it is a useful tool.
I take it completely apart to wash it. I take the bolts and washers off, handwash the lid in warm soapy water, and carefully dry it before replacing the bolts and washers. I hand wash the ring and dry it. The jar can go through the dishwasher. I soak the tubing in hot, soapy water then rinse it and leave it propped so all the moisture can run out of it.