After her disastrous kidding, my goat Ixcacao was given an antibiotic to prevent infection of her much-invaded uterus. That meant that I had to throw out her milk until the withholding period was over. So, though I’ve been milking, we haven’t had goat milk until this week.
I milk in a sheltered spot behind our large shed, where a previous owner conveniently built a head-lock for his beef cattle. We added a platform, a feed tray, and a roof to create a sturdy milking stand protected from the worst of the weather.
I milk twice a day for the first half of the milking season. 5.30 am and 4 pm. There are usually a few days of awkwardness after kidding, when doe and kids don’t want to be separated, but once everyone is into the routine, milking runs smoothly.
I enjoy milking, especially the early morning milking, which happens in the dark for the early and late part of the season. There is something soothing and centring about milking.
When it goes well…
“Watching you milk is just scary,” said my husband the other day. “You’re so fast at it.”
Milking is not the stress-free experience for him as it is for me. I forget sometimes what a steep learning curve it was for me the first time I was faced with goats with udders tight as drums who had never been milked. There was a lot of cursing, and more than a few tears. And there was a lot of spilled milk.
But with practice, the goats and I got much better at it. As I got quicker, they had more patience with me. I learned how to tell when they were about to kick, and how to prevent them from stepping in the milk. I learned the particular foibles of each goat—how to get them to stand still, whether their milk squirted from the teat at an angle, how to work with small teats or teats with small holes, how to manage an udder that sagged almost to the ground.
Instead of a test of wills, milking became a partnership between me and each goat. And so it became almost effortless.
I still lose a pot of milk to a misplaced foot now and again, and ‘breaking in’ a new goat is never a smooth process.
But usually, if something goes wrong, I can fall back on some advice I read when I was first learning how to milk—relax and just milk the damn goat. It’s good advice, whether you’re milking goats, or taking on any other challenge.