Thursday, March 25, 2010

Adventures in Milking

<--Chinaberry, 3rd freshening

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.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Kids on the Block

I've been wanting a couple kids up the generational ladder to cross with my herd so I could more easily improve the ears. (Gosh, why keep trying to reinvent the wheel, when others have already paved the way!) I also wanted to improve the milking capacity of my does. My herd tends more toward the minimum height requirement than the maximum, and as such I've been getting yields that are more like ND than Nubian (more about my self conducted milking trials in another post). I feel incredibly fortunately to have found these beautiful kiddos. I bought them from Eddy's Place in Jefferson, Texas. ( Eddy's animals looked to be somewhat taller than mine, so I think it will be a good cross. Shame on me, I brought the kids home as bottle babies. I did so mostly because my life is so busy, and I thought it better to get them while I was there, than to try to make it back in May. I also have a ton of goat milk in the freezer that needs to be used up! (Also some canned milk - If you've thought about trying to can milk, forget it; it's very nasty.)

Nosey is a 5th generation buckling - check out the ears!! His dad was Hershey so I tried coming up with a name off Hershey like Reese, but as I got to know him more I realized, Nosey fits. He took to the bottle real easily and comes flying out the gate every time I open it and dives at my feet.

This little doeling is 4th generation. More great ears - this is the kind I've been pining for - no control at all! She was named Blackberry, but I changed it as we have enough berries in our herd! Her mother is Black Beauty so I decided to call her Merrylegs and start a line of goats named after famous horses. Merrylegs has been slower to warm up to bottlefeeding. She wanted to fill up on grass instead of milk, and so has had to do the rounds of Probios. But she seems to have decided I'm not so bad and is coming to me now for her bottles.

Lord willing, I think 2011 will be a good year for the MiniNubian herd! If I could just get some does! (It's just not possible to always have bucks - is it?)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lost One

Sadly, little Mulan, my spotted Nigerian Dwarf lost her baby. She had a little brown haired, brown eyed buckling. When I went to check on her, I found the baby in the shelter. It was cleaned up, but life-less. Not sure what happened. If it was a difficult birth or what. He was larger, but didn't look too large. Poor thing. She seems pretty sad about it. She's sticking pretty close to her own mama, who is due to have kids in April. *sigh* Anyone who thinks animals don't have feelings is kidding theirselves.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

$15 down the drain...

OK, so I bought this tip for my Rinehart X40 dehorner -
Unfortunately, I didn't notice when I was buying it that it said it was for the X50 only :-(
Tonight I really needed to disbud the 2 full size bucklings. So I changed out the tip - noticed it was a little wobbly - huh, that's weird. There's a little metal rectangle that goes on the screw - I added another of these from another tip thinking the screw was just too short. I seemed to fit good then.
I heated up the iron, and grabbed the first one. First thing I noticed was that the shape was awesome. These little guys have some pretty significant horn buds already, and I've always had trouble with bucks getting scurs. I taken everybody's advice. I know I'm doing it right. I redo, and still they all end up with scurs. I thought this tip might be my answer.
But then the trouble started. I noticed that the X40 was glowing red, but the buck tip was not. Then I noticed I was not getting a good fast burn or a copper ring. The little guy was doing so good. I'd burn a little then wait for it to heat up again. But in the end, I had to give up. Of course, now the dehorner is burning hot, so I can't change out the tip anytime soon. Tomorrow, I have to try again with my normal tip, and the poor little guy is going to have to have another quick reburn, cause he never did have a good copper ring.
Hehe, maybe I need to buy and X50 to go with my $15 buck tip. Sadly, I don't think hubby would go for that!

Why I dam raise kids...

Dam raising (nursing) versus bottle-feeding will probably always be a hot topic for those raising goats. People have many reasons for bottle-feeding - they want to do CAE prevention by feeding the kids pasturized milk, they want all the goat milk for themselves, they think the kids are friendlier when they are bottle raised. I've tried both ways, and I believe hands down dam raising is superior. Here's why -

1. The God factor - I believe the world was formed by an intelligent being, and He decided to feed babies this way. Who am I to mess with what has worked for millenia?

2. Pasturizing may kill some pathogens in milk, but it also kills everything beneficial as well. *I* prefer to drink raw milk for my own health. I believe raw milk is healthiest for goats as well.

3. The milk is cleanest when it comes straight from the source. There is no chance of spoiling in the teat.

4. Milk replacers (ie goat infant formula) are inferior to the real thing, and often cause scours. A baby can drink all the fresh goat milk he needs, but if you over-do milk replacer, he will scour.

5. I *like* sharing my milk with babies - for one, I think they establish better lactations than my hand milking alone. Secondly, when I go on vacation (or if I'm sick, or sick of milking), a baby can take care of the milking for me, so I don't have to impose on someone to do it for me. Of course, I'm not a commercial dairy - a family of 5 has very different needs and does not need to run the backyard herd like a commercial dairy.

6. I have noticed my kids that nursed to contentment grow fast and stay healthier. I even noticed last year that my Nigerian buck who was weaned at the customary 12 weeks did not grow as well or stay as healthy after weaning as his sister who stayed with mom. For this reason, I have begun weight taping kids and will dam raise them to 2.5X their birth weight before weaning.

7. I do not feel the temperments of bottlefed babies are better than dam raised. Spending time with the kids is what makes them tame - being present at their births (or shortly after) and holding them often will make them sweet. Bottlefed babies are constantly underfoot looking for milk, and are more a nuisance. (Look at how often a dam fed baby is under mom's feet - that's how *you* are going to be treated if you bottlefeed!)

Not saying there's never a reason to bottlefeed, but this is the reason I don't make it a practice. There are sound reasons for doing things the old fashioned way. Nothing can take the place of the basics for creating a healthy herd - good food, clean living conditions, and a watchful eye.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cyber Hug of the Day

Oh Lily, What have you done?

I was hoping against hope that Lily would have a doe this year, but alas, here are bucklings 4 and 5. 3 years, 5 bucks! When I named her Lily, I had all these lovely flower names picked out for her little doelings, but no dice. While the berries flourish in the herd, the flowers do not. (Birdie was supposed to give me all these does to name after birds, but so far no luck with her either! Maybe this year?)

She always has such nice little bucks. These are brown roan color with white markings and black points. Nice toplines showing on day one. They are full size dairy bucks. Both are avaliable for reserve.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

These two girls hit the ground yesterday. They have droopy ears so far. A little short. Both blue eyed. They are out of Cherry (25/75) and Little John (75/25), so they are 50/50. We will retain one, and one is avaliable for reserve (probably the bottom one as our daughter is wanting the top one - to be named Strawberry to replace the Strawberry we sold last year). I've been calling the bottom one "Candy".

Figuring Out Ears

I find the classification of Mini-Nubian ears to be a little confusing. My buck Mordechai has 2/3 or 3/4 drop ears. I bred him to a 75/25 with full drop ears, and I got this -

Contrast that with his "uncle" a 75/25 -

Refer to daddy at the same age and now-

What you you think? Will the buckling at the top have full drop ears? Or will they stiffen more? If I breed him to mamas with less than full drop ears will my chances of getting good ears be enhanced or diminished?