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January 22, 2018

How Changing My Milking Routine Changed My Life


How changing my milking routine changed my life, and 3 tips that might change yours too. From Oak Hill Homestead


Milking a dairy goat (or cow) daily establishes a bond, a very close relationship with that animal. But milking really ties you down too, and it's something to think about when you are contemplating raising dairy animals.


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For various reasons, we no longer breed our goats and we have just three older does in the pasture
these days.  Milking is no longer part of my day, and I really miss it.

But milking my goats wasn't always pleasant. At one point I had six does in milk plus several dry does and a couple of yearlings in the goat pen. I'd separate the kids in a stall overnight and milk in the morning, which enabled me to milk once a day.



(That tip right there? If you want to have a dairy animal and still have a life,
this is what you need to do! You can read more about it here. But keep reading, 
I have more tips to share.)


The does all knew that the milkstand held grain, and they all wanted to be the first goat in the milking stall. Even the yearlings knew.

Can you imagine a herd of goats trying to get through a gate at the same time? It looked like a scene from an old comedy with all of them trying to get through that gate simultaneously. I'd try to let just one goat through but I might as well have tried to stop the wind or the sea. I was nearly run over a few times too. It was all too chaotic, and downright dangerous.

Then one morning, out of utter frustration, I did something that changed my life. I put them all in time out, and tied each doe to the fence. And I sat down on an overturned bucket and cried for a few minutes. Maybe more than a few.

I realized that I'd stumbled onto something important. This one simple thing - tying them all to the fence - helped make my mornings so much more pleasant. They could no longer try to get through the gate at the same time, and I was in charge! I used leashes and even the horses' lead ropes at first, one for each goat, but eventually I found a dog tie-out chain on clearance for $2, and cut ten-inch lengths of it with my bolt cutters. On each end I attached a "spring clip(affiliate link) so I could snap one end to the goat's collar and the other to the fencing in the goats' pen.

How changing my milking routine changed my life, and 3 tips that might change yours too. From Oak Hill Homestead
Many months later, I asked a friend who made halters to make a dozen
of these for me, to replace the chains and clips I'd been using.


Milking was so much easier! Each goat was clipped to the fence and given some grain in her own bucket. Each doe had exactly the amount I wanted her to have. The more dominant goats couldn't run the others away from their buckets. The slow eaters could eat uninterrupted. The milkers were given additional grain on the milkstand. The yearlings had just enough feed (and they learned the milking routine too). Genius!

I was able to let one goat in the milking stall at a time, while the others were still tied to the fence. They learned to stand quietly and wait for their turn. When I finished milking one doe, I clipped her back to her spot on the fence and unclipped the next one.

Now I was able to milk in the same order every morning. Instead of milking whichever goat came into the milking stall next, I could choose the next goat to be milked.

In the beginning I milked the herd queen first, but eventually I ranked them by ease of milking. If you've ever milked multiple goats and had aching hands afterwards, or been awakened in the middle of the night by hands that were cramped and sore, try this tip.

The doe with the fat teats that were hard on my hands became my first-to-be-milked goat. She behaved well on the milkstand, but if I milked her last, my hands were already stiff and tired and just weren't up to the task. So I started with her each morning, and ended with the doe with the softest, easiest-to-milk udder. Wish, my herd queen, fell somewhere in the middle, much to her dislike.

My three tips:
Tip #1: how to milk just once a day
Tip #2: set up a feeding station for each doe
Tip #3: milk the doe that's hardest on your hands first
Bonus tip: milk the worst-behaved goat last

When all were milked, the does were moved to the pasture and I let the kids out of their stall to spend the day with their moms. They nursed all day long and I only had to milk once a day. Hubby appreciated that part: we had more flexibility in what we could do and where we could go in the afternoons.

Are your goats unruly and out of control? Train them to behave at feeding time and on the milk stand by changing your milking routine.

If a twice-a-day milking schedule keeps you from having dairy animals, try the once-a-day method. If your mornings are beyond crazy and your goats are out of control, tie them to the fence before you start milking. And if your hands ache after milking several goats, try milking the hardest-on-your-hands doe first and the easiest one last. It just might change your homesteading life.


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Related posts:
The How and Why of Milking Once a Day
How to Train Your Goat to the Milkstand
10 Must-Have Items for Goatkeepers


This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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14 comments:

  1. I am really excited, because we plan on purchasing 2 Nigerian Dwarf doelings this year. I think we may need as many as 4, but I'm going to start with two. I love that first tip, to separate at night, and reunite in the morning!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ruthie, milking once a day is the way to go! This post goes into the hows and whys: http://www.oakhillhomestead.com/2015/05/once-day-milking.html

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  2. I keep going back and forth about getting dairy goats or sheep because of how much work it entails, but this makes it sound so much easier. May get them sooner than I think now. Are you ever able to leave your homestead for vacation or do your goats require you to be there everyday? Great post, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Monica, we have been able to go on week-long vacations even during milking season. The key is to travel either when the does are dry in the winter, or before the goat kids are weaned. This is another advantage of once-a-day milking vs taking the kids away and bottle-feeding them. We simply let the does and kids stay together while we're traveling, so no one has to milk.

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    2. That is great to know. I thought I would be permanently tied to my homestead once I had a dairy animal. You have given me hope!

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  3. I can’t wait for milking season again! Thanks for the tip!

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad this was helpful, Angela!

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  4. I am still not sure if we will ever do goats for milk, or cows for that matter, but this is great info, and if we ever end up doing it, I will remember this.

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  5. Anonymous5:58 AM

    Can you leave the kids on and just start milking when we are getting ready to wean them or do u have to start milking right away?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you can wait to start milking after the kids are weaned.

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  6. Anonymous9:00 AM

    I am so glad I read this. Such a great simple idea. I saw myself as you were talking about the goats almost running you over. I delt with that last year and I am on a walker and crutches. So I love this idea. Thank you so very much for post this wonderful idea. I appreciate you telling about sitting on the bucket crying, cause I have cried many tears of frustration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This really helps turn your does into "ladies" - calm, patient, considerate ladies. It will take a week or so until they give in to the new routine, but you'll be glad you insisted! Calm will reign and you'll be a much happier goatkeeper.

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  7. Love this idea we had a couple of goats & it was always a bit of a drama. One goat in particular took off so quick tore my shoulder ligaments & dragged me down the paddock, in hindsite was quite funny. I am going to get 2 again as that's all we need, and I do miss the interaction sooo much, not the dragging part just the fun malarkey bits. I will definitely try milking this way though thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OUCH! I admire you for planning to have goats again, after that!

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