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.


Linda said...

Ah thanks so much for telling about The Henry Milker. I tried again to use mine and all I got was drops. I am going to wait to try it again until I can get the hose barbs and a new teat cup - which I have ordered. I am also going to separate the kids next time I try it. She isn't letting her milk down for me at the moment and I can feel she is full, she just wants to keep it for the kids for now. Of course she will learn to let it down for me again, but not quite yet.

Mama Mercer said...

Yeah, I have that problem too - that they are saving the milk for the kids. All 4 nursed their kids for several minutes after my milk test yesterday, so I know they are holding out somewhat. I've worked with Chinaberry the most, and it took about 3 days before she really started letting down for it good.

One thing you can do is pump it up to about 5, and then release a little, then pump it again, then release. Sometimes that gets it going. Massaging definately helps.

I bet if you separate the kids for awhile, you will have better luck. Once they build up some pressure, then they are happier about letting you have some of it.

Linda said...

Thanks, I will try your suggestions... I seriously want this pump to work!

Mama Mercer said...

If the pump is making a vaccum, then you are just having a letdown problem and working with the goat to get a letdown will work. If you don't get a vaccum, then somethings leaking on the pump. I usually hold the teat cup in place until I hear the canning jar lid "pop" then I let go and just pump up. Different goats seem to like different #s too. One goat lets down better at around 5, while another does better at 8, so you kind of have to experiment to see what works best. HTH

Linda said...

Oh I am getting a vacuum, no problem there! It will go all the way to 20 if I keep pumping! But no, she is just not letting her milk down when I use the pump. I will get the barbs for the lid and the new teat cup and then wait till I start separating the kids to try again. I will probably get the barbs when we go to town on the 3rd, which will make it just about at two weeks postpartum. The teat cups should already be in the mail.

Oh I like the idea of hearing the lid go 'pop'! lol Thanks so much for all your helpful information!

Linda said...

Oh ya, the 35ml syringe fits ok? I was using a 20ml with my other pump I made, the 30ml seemed a bit too big - Cali really has tiny teats! They had lengthened quite a bit before I quit milking before, now they are real short again. Although I think they will grow a bit again once she is further into her lactation and the kids don't keep her teats empty.

Mama Mercer said...

I think from what you are describing that there is just not as much milk there for you as you think. Each lactation up to about 3 years or so, they build more and more tissue in the udder. That makes the udder look bigger and feel tighter even when it is not full of milk. Babies nurse quite constantly, so I have only ever had sporadic luck trying to get milk while the babies are still on the mom. There will always be a little in the teat, but that doesn't mean the udder has much stored. With triplets I'd guess it would be nearly impossible to get any without separating. I bet once you are able to separate - even just a few hours - the milker will work well.

The size of the teat cup works fine - her is some info I found:

Question: What about Miniature Goats and their teats being much smaller? Will the Henry Milker work on my smaller goats? Do I need a smaller teat cup?
Answer: The Henry Milker teat cup makes contact with the udder, not the teat. The teat is suspended down in the teat cup. It really makes no difference how small the teat is. There are many satisfied customers who have hard to milk goats with smaller teats and have verified that it really works.

Linda said...

Yes, those are good points, but I know she is holding her milk back. I could even feel her udder grow and firm up when I massaged and bumped it, but it was not being released.

Mr. Henry also said that sometimes a smaller teat cup works better. And because it works ok for you, I would think it would work ok with mine. Although, I have (or will have when I get them) size 20ml and size 30ml. I like the 30ml and it is what I tried the last time I tried the milker... I want to use the 20ml on my tiny ff doe though... she is really, really tiny! I am just so excited! I really want this to work and I am sure it will... but like I said I will wait until I am separating them to try again. Thank you very much for being so helpful.

Mama Mercer said...

Another tip on the Henry Milker - the smaller the jar the easier it is to pump (less air to remove to create a vaccum). I was using a 1/2 gallon jar; my hands were killing me. A pint jar is really easy to use - the square ball jars have wide mouth lids. Of course, you can't go too small or you will flood the pump. Choose the smallest jar that will hold one teat's worth of milk if you are having trouble with sore hands.

Linda said...

I was also thinking that about the jar. A pint jar would be too small for Cali though. I really don't want to change jars between teats, although it is a very good point and idea! This morning I milked her by hand (no I didn't separate the kids yet)and she gave me almost 14 oz. (I posted about it in my goat blog) so I am really curious what she will give when I do separate them. I will separate them tonight and try it tomorrow morning.

I also almost have all the stuff to use the vacuum milker and will probably try it Monday...

Mama Mercer said...

Yeah, you just have to experiment and find what you like. For my gallon milker, I'd rather dump the small amount into a larger jar, rather than try to get a vaccum with that 1/2 gallon jar. It was killing my hands! Then as soon as I'd get it pumped up, she would kick! The quart jar isn't so bad. The pint jar pulls a vaccum in about 2 pumps.

Linda said...

I was thinking of adding a shut off valve like they have of electric milkers, so I can change to the other teat without loosing the vacuum or without loosing all the vacuum... I haven't found the shut off valve yet, but I will check today while I am in Medford... we are doing our monthly grocery today - brrrr in the cold without a heater!

rndbesley said...

I bought the Henry Milker in preparation for one my Nigerian Dwarfs kidding. That happened two days ago and she only had a buckling so I am milking her a bit. Could you tell me where you found the 20ml and 30ml teat cups? I don't know how to find a cup that will fit the hose well. Any info. would be appreciated!
Thanks! Danielle

Linda said...

"Another tip on the Henry Milker - the smaller the jar the easier it is to pump (less air to remove to create a vaccum). I was using a 1/2 gallon jar; my hands were killing me. A pint jar is really easy to use - the square ball jars have wide mouth lids. Of course, you can't go too small or you will flood the pump. Choose the smallest jar that will hold one teat's worth of milk if you are having trouble with sore hands."

After trying the milker, only once or twice, I had decided to not use it. However, your suggestion that I use a smaller jar (which I discarded the idea at first) would work much better. I am looking for a pump now that I can use my foot with instead of my hand. I want to develop something easy to use so if I need a stand in milker, it would be easier to find one... like my husband! LOL