Posts Tagged ‘milking’

Bottle babies are a pain in the behind. It takes a lot of extra time to mix the milk replacer, fill the bottles, feed the babies three or more times a day, and clean up all your bottles and nipples and and bowls afterward. A lot of dairy breeders pull the babies right at birth, as this can help prevent the spread of a disease called C A E, which shortens goats’ lifespans and reduces their milk production, often dramatically. Out of seven goat births here on our place, however, we’ve only managed to attend one.


The only bottle babies we’ve had from here were kids rejected by their moms. Between day jobs, the garden, house renos, and the human baby, it’s just not something I would willingly sign up for. Besides, all of the goats in our original herd were raised on CAE prevention, so we should be covered on the disease front.


However, in spring, 2013, we bought a few more goat kids, to broaden our genetic base a bit. We bought from a reputable breeder, one who raises her kids on CAE prevention. That’s good, because it means we won’t introduce anything to our clean herd, but it sucked, because it meant bottle babies again. Trekking to the barn four times a day in the cold and dark was no more fun in 2013 than in other years, and I have to admit, there was some grumbling on our part.


The doeling on the left is three weeks old, and the one on the right is close to three months.

The doeling on the left is three weeks old, and the one on the right is close to three months.


The 2013 bottle kids were born at the end of February and beginning of March, so they were a couple of months older than our farm kids. We really noticed a size difference – at three weeks, the dam-raised kids were as tall as the bottle babies, but much leaner and glossier. As well, they seem more energetic and curious.


Even now, almost a year later, the dam-raised goats are still somewhat bigger and sleeker; those bottle babies still haven’t caught up. Our little female bottle doeling hasn’t really put on the weight the same way our dam-raised doeling did, and seems to have entirely too many ribs, especially compared to the other yearlings, who are verging on being fat.


Almost a year later - dam raised on the left, bottle baby on the right.

Almost a year later – dam raised on the left, bottle baby on the right.


While I understand the reasoning behind CAE prevention, I do have to say I am happier with dam-raised kids overall. They seem healthier, and are considerably less work. Sure, we don’t get to milk right away, but it’s only a few weeks before you can pen the kids at night and milk in the morning. It also gives us a bit more freedom – if we can’t be here to milk, we can leave the kids with the does, and let them do our milking for us, which makes finding a farm sitter a whole lot easier. In 2012, I couldn’t milk with the birth of our baby, but we let Titan keep milking Saffron right up until the middle of September, when I felt up to taking over. It let us get a couple months’ worth of milk that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to deal with.


The one disadvantage to the dam-raised kids is how skittish and shy they end up being. We can catch and handle every goat on our farm, but the dam-raised does, in particular, only come for a bucket of grain, unlike the bottle does, who come for ear-scratches and attention. Interestingly, the dam-raised bucks seem to get fairly friendly once they are separated from their moms and put in the buck pen. It will also be interesting seeing how the yearlings and two year olds are for kidding and milking in 2015 – I expect those dam-raised does to be a challenge on the milking stand, but maybe I’ll get a pleasant surprise. On the bright side, having been raised by their moms, those skittish yearlings should (theoretically) turn out to be pretty good moms, which will save us the hassle of bottle feeding, or even coaching a nervous first-timer about how to stay still to nurse her kids.


goat lineup


We’re hoping that, with the exception of maybe (maybe!) a buckling every couple-few years, we are done with bottle babies. We did not breed any first-timers this year, as we know our springtime will be crazy-busy, but most of our yearlings were dam-raised anyhow, so they should do okay when we do breed them in 2015. I’ll be sure to provide updates!

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Saskatchewan is apparently having a record year for bugs, particularly mosquitoes.  That is pretty impressive in a province where mosquitoes are jokingly referred to as the provincial bird.   It contributes to a high level of general misery here on the Acreage, as every mammal on the place is being mobbed constantly.  The barn cats go, quite literally, crazy, rolling around on the hay pile, trying to scratch the bugs off.  The dogs do their business, and make a beeline back to the house, where they retreat to the living room to scratch at their poor bug-bitten snouts with their front paws.


The mosquitoes bother poor Saffron the goat so much that milk production goes substantially down on calm-ish, damp-ish mild days like we have had lately – she is so busy trying to get the mosquitoes off that she hardly touches her grain, and there is the additional challenge of trying to keep her from putting a foot in the milk bucket when I am trying to milk, and she is trying to kick the mosquitoes off her udder.


The only critters not bothered by the mosquito invasion are the chickens.  They eat them.  Hubby does not mind the chicken part of the barn chores at all right now…the coop is one of the only respites on this whole place, right at the moment.  He hangs out and watches the birds eat the bugs, while poor Saffron and I get eaten alive at the milking stand.  We need to get those chickens free-ranging, but the fox that keeps trotting across our back lawn has really been discouraging us from letting the birds out without a good, strong fence.


Hubby, who is not overly fond of the heat, has been wishing for 30+ degree days, just so that he can get into the garden to do some weeding.  Even dripping with the highest-percentage DEET formulations we can find, we are just moving meals for the plague of bugs around here.  On hot days, they go to ground for awhile, and we can at least move somewhat freely around the mowed parts of the Acreage.


Mosquitoes love the bush and tall grass, so even though I can see ripe Saskatoon berries in the forest, we cannot reasonably pick any of them.  I braved the forest for about four minutes a couple of days ago, and despite being mid-day and 30 degrees, and me being quite literally dripping with bug spray, I was chased out before I even got to the berry bush I was trying to pick.  The problem is the thick undergrowth and chest-high grass where the bugs find shelter.   There are so many stray branches and lumps and bumps and occasional rocks on the ground that it is impossible to mow anywhere near the forest, so the grass has really gotten out of hand.


After brainstorming for awhile, we decided to buy a scythe.


I know, I know, most normal people would get a weed whacker.  Electric is not an option, though, and gas powered anything is a real pain in the butt out here, as we are half an hour from a gas station, and always seem to forget to fill the jerry can when we are in town.  These delicate machines seem to break on me with alarming regularity, and they are expensive!  I reasoned that a scythe, while not exactly cheap, should require only minimal repair over its lifetime, like, say, tightening a bolt on one of the handles, or sharpening the blade.  The input, muscle power, is plentiful around here, unlike gasoline at $1.20 per litre.  I hate the noise of the mower (I can’t stand the vacuum, either), so a weed whacker would just be one more annoyance, whereas the swish-swish of a scythe is actually kind of pleasant.  Once my back heals up, there is a fair chance I will even do some of the grass cutting, a duty that  generally falls to Hubby just because I hate the noise of the lawnmower so much.


The other bonus is that the scythe goes through chest high grass quite nicely, and leaves nice, neat piles of greenery that are easy to scoop up and dump in the goat troughs.  The goats love it.  We may even try cutting the back pasture and leaving it to dry for hay…why not, if it’s free?  After just a few minutes’ practice, I can see that Hubby will be able to really motor with that thing – it might even be faster than a lawnmower, at least in the really tall grass.  The big trick will be keeping Molly the barn cat out of swinging range…


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We have started weaning Tuscan, the baby buckling goat.   Last week, we began feeding him his milk out of a bucket, which was actually a lot easier and less messy than I had anticipated…I got him sucking on the nipple (without attaching it to his bottle), and slowly lowered it into the milk in the bucket, until he was sucking up milk, rather than sucking on the nipple.  It only took about three tries before he caught on.   If I had realized it was going to be that easy, I would have gotten him on the bucket a long time ago, as it is much easier to fill and clean than the bottle was.

This week, I am substituting water for milk at the morning feeding, and offering him a larger portion of goat ration.  Goat ration is mysterious stuff that comes from the Co-op in bags, looks like little pellets, and presumably involves grain at some point in its manufacture.  I actually intend to blend my own goat feed at some point, but for now, the Co-op feed is easy and it is cheap enough, and we know it provides appropriate nutrition to Saffron (the milker) and the growing babies.

We have been using Saffron’s milk to feed the little guy, as she has plenty for him, plus a bit left over for us.  We pasteurize it before feeding it to Tuscan, as there are some nasty goat diseases that are passed through milk, and they are sort of like goat AIDS – hard to test conclusively for.  Most breeders take the babies from their mothers immediately, and only feed pasteurized milk, which is the only known effective prevention tactic.  Our breeder had Tuscan on this CAE prevention program, so we continued it here.

Anyhow, with Tuscan being given half as much milk as before, suddenly we have LOTS in the fridge.  Lots and lots of nice rich milk, that really should be used up, instead of allowed to go sour.  We’ve been experimenting with making yogurt, but the results have been…goaty.  I have been quite disappointed with this, as I have eaten a lot of truly delightful goat milk yogurt, and I can’t figure out what I am doing wrong.  I have narrowed it down to three possibilities:  wrong kind of goat (apparently they have different levels of goaty-ness in the milk), wrong starter culture (I have just been using yogurt from the store), or improper handling (too warm, or for too long).  In the meantime, the dogs have been eating lots of yogurt, which is lucky for them, but sucks for us.

Being somewhat sick of failed yogurt experiments, I decided to try a simple soft cheese.  Most cheese making requires some fairly specialized stuff – in particular, rennet (to make the milk coagulate), and bacterial starters (to give it real flavor).  With our crazy fridge full of milk, I went online and ordered a bunch of cheese making supplies, but they won’t arrive for another week or two.  In the meantime, I pulled the cheese making book down from the bookshelf, and was flipping idly through the pages, and discovered that not all cheese requires starters or rennet – some just need a gallon or two of milk and some lemon juice or vinegar.  Ricotta is traditionally made from the whey left over from making other cheeses, but can be made with whole milk…Yay!

I got out the stock pot, and got going.  Here is the recipe I used:

Whole Goat Milk Ricotta:

1 gallon of fresh goat milk

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp kosher (or pickling) salt

Bring the milk to 206 degrees (Fahrenheit).  It is not supposed to boil, but mine did, and although the cheese is a bit firmer (rubberier) than I would have expected, I still got cheese, so I am not too worried about it.  Add the apple cider vinegar, and stir it in.  In a few seconds, you will begin to see the milk curdle (form lumps) and settle out of the whey (leftover liquid).  keep stirring until the whey is quite clear.  Let the mixture sit for a few minutes (five or so), then pour it through a strainer lined with cheesecloth (or a clean dish towel…whatever works).  Let drain for 20 minutes (give or take.  I forgot about mine and left it for longer than that).  Stir in the salt when breaking up the curds for storage.  Keep refrigerated.

I additionally split the curds into two different piles – one for keeping plain, and a second bunch that I sprinkled about a teaspoon of Italian seasoning over.  The herbed ricotta is fantastic on crackers, and has been my dinner two nights in a row!

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Udderly Exhausted

Well, the goats arrived on Saturday.  The names alone suggested that the seller was a cowboy of the Brokeback Mountain variety, but he was a real sweetie about helping us settle them in and getting us going with the milking.  We have no luck with the names we inherit with our critters, though – first, a big tough guard dog named Cherry, and now goats with names like Silhouette and Mysterious.  ReallyGoats?  Yes, really.  Goats.


Saffron, the milker, is quite a patient goat.  I have milked a goat, before…twenty years ago, as a teenager, at a camp.  Twice.  For about two minutes each time.  I did not recall it being all that difficult, but then again, it’s not like I milked that one from start to finish, either.  Our first round of chores after the seller left took about three hours. Poor Saffron did not like our milking stand, for starters.  It is high, so I can stand while I milk, and she found the ramp slippery.  She would put one dainty little hoof on it, then change her mind when she put some weight on it.  After half an hour of this, Hubby and I finally got frustrated, and helped her along, with me pulling from the front, and Hubby pushing from the back.  Both making all sorts of threats and promises.  It was quite a production.


Once we had her up on the stand, the real fun began.  Milking took about half a lifetime, and in the nineteen hours I was yanking on that udder, I managed to get about six squirts worth of milk in the actual pail.  I had milk up the wall, down the stand, all over Hubby and myself, on the tail of a barn cat who got a little too curious, and, at one point, up the nose of the poor goat, who was giving me one of those ‘aren’t you done yet?’ sorts of looks.  In all, once we got the milk back in the house and filtered, we got about a quart, which we filtered and put in the fridge for putting in our coffee and over our cereal in the morning.


Or, rather, I put in my coffee and in my cereal in the morning.  Hubby is still getting over the gag factor of having seen his breakfast squirting out of a couple of big, hairy nipples, on the business end of a big, hairy goat.  I forget just how little exposure Hubby has had to livestock, and sometimes have…unrealistic expectations…of him.   On the second day, I sent him to go get the milker while I readied the feed and cleaned the milking stand.


“Which one’s the milker?”  he hollered from the big girls’ stall at the back of the barn.

“The one with the biggest udder,” I replied.

“Neither of them have udders” he called back.

What?  I thought we only got one boy!


I went back to the stall, confused.  There was Hubby, feeling around on the goats’ chests.   Right where he would expect the nipples to be, I suppose.


“Um, honey, the udder is at the other end…”


It was like living in a Monty Python movie for a while, there.


We’re up to about a quart and a half of milk per milking, now, mostly because I am getting better at hitting the bucket.  Hubby now knows where to find a goat udder.  We’ve fixed up the ramp so that the goat will go up and down it with minimal fuss, and I can milk her out in about ten minutes, now.  Chores now take just a bit over an hour…thank goodness, since I still have to go to work in the morning, and this business of going to bed at 11 after three hours in the barn, only to get up at 4:30 to do it all over again was really getting to me.  I’ve been udderly exhausted…

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