I have wanted a dairy goat almost since the day I bought the farm. I had such romantic ideals of waking up early in the morning and trudging out to the barn, mason jars in hand, to share a quiet morning with a dairy goat as she munches away on breakfast. Then, winding down the day with the same routine.
Last year, I split a shed that butted up against the barn into a coop for the future favorelles and a milk room. Once Tom and Jo learned I wanted a dairy goat, they (as usual) sprung into high speed. Tom build an awesome milking stand. Jo found a really cool armoire at Goodwill and before long, I had a functional milk room!
Jo, being “let’s do this now” Jo ran out and found a dairy goat, Ava. Ava came with her adorable little boy Antony. She also came with the promise that she was a good milk goat from a line of champion milkers. Uh-huh, and I come from a champion line of javelin throwers (I don’t).
Well, someone forgot to tell Ava that she was a dairy goat. And, really, someone forgot to tell me that I had no idea how to milk.
But, ya know, if a child can do it, so can I, right?
I had already spent a lot of time on Youtube, making the motions with an invisible udder between my fingers. But, let me tell you, nothing compares to the real thing. And it isn’t exactly like Ava was patient with me. From the moment we got her on the milk stand, she kicked and squirmed and was overall miserable. I am not up for doing anything that makes one of our animals miserable, so we eventually tossed in the towel and let Antony have all the milk. Indeed, he is still ramming that udder for the last little drops. I promise, I was way more gentle than his little horned head.
In comes Aspen. This time, we learned our lesson, driving over an hour in the morning hours to witness our next dairy goat actually being milked before we brought her home. Aspen was beautiful and a charm on the stand. She ate and cudded and didn’t mind the homemade electric milker her family had made. She produced a gallon a day!!
We were really excited, so we loaded her up in the back of the Xterra and off we went. (Lesson: don’t forget the tarp – Aspen peed A LOT on the way home!)
She settled in nicely and, with eagerness, we watched her udder swell throughout the day.
Man, I’m living the dream. Evening rolls around and I grab my milking supplies (more on that in a post to come!) and practically skip out to the milkroom. Aspen, who had milked on a stand outside, does not understand why I am urging her into the room. No worries, I am prepared for this, so I grab the leash and lead her in. “Come on Aspen, jump up. Your food is right there.”
“No,” Aspen tells me with her eyes. Not just no, but absolutely positively not! Unswayed, we pick her up and lift her up. Eventually she finds the food and begins to munch away. I clean her udders and she doesn’t mind at all. I had a little practice with Ava and though Aspen was used to the machine, I still had romantic notions of hand milking, just like my great-grandmother used to do.
An hour later, there was nothing romantic about the ache in my hands and the thinning of Aspen’s patience. But, I had a little over a quart so something was happening…. just not the something that was her average amount.
Tomorrow is, after all, another day.
The morning wasn’t much better. While my milking was steadier, I was slow. Aspen is such a sweet girl. She just munched her food, but I am pretty sure she was rolling her eyes and wishing she was back home. I tried to get every last drop, terrified her production would drop if I didn’t or, worse, she would have an uncomfortably full udder.
Meanwhile, Jo ordered an electric milker.
Because of my MS, I only have one strong hand and it was growing weaker by the day. I learned there are muscles in my hand I never knew I had! It was frustrating and I felt like a total milking failure.
I cried. I cried for Aspen and I cried for my lack of skills. I envied those videos with folks quickly and efficiently milking with two hands, stripping every drop.
I also ordered a milker from Dansha Farms. Amazon Prime was faster and besides it isn’t a bad idea to have a backup machine.
This machine was a good bit like the one Aspen was used to, using pressure to milk. I was somewhat concerned about these types of milkers because they seem especially unnatural. Anything, though, had to be better than me!
As soon as the machine arrived, I put it together and headed out to the milkroom. It was really easy to use and Aspen, probably relieved that she was finally going to unload all her milk, didn’t even flinch. We almost filled up a half gallon jar!! No more tears, no more guilt!
But….. (always a but just when I think I have things under control)
Within a few days, Aspen hated it. I couldn’t milk both sides at once which, in itself, isn’t a big deal since I was doing that by hand, but she began to kick and resist when I put the syringes on. Since I did it one teat at a time, I took the second and, instead of using the plunger to hold the pressure, I put it on my thigh where I could feel the suction myself and know if it was too much. While it didn’t really hurt, it certainly wasn’t comfortable. Welcome back, guilt. Thank goodness Jo’s milker was on the way.
Meet the Simple Pulse, created by Jesse and Cristen Sullivan. Here is Cristen with a demonstration:
Oh my, it is so wonderful. Wow. It took me a while to figure out and put together. I actually lost the manual, but Jo contacted them and Cristen quickly sent another via email. Jo and I carried it and all the supplies out to the milkroom. I had already sort of tested it on myself by sticking my thumb where Aspen’s teat would go. No discomfort. This felt natural, like a kid sucking. It had to feel better for Aspen too, it just had to.
Aspen, now used to jumping on the stand on her own, hopped right up and began eating. Expecting her to kick, I placed the cups, one at a time, on her teats. No kick. Nothing, she just kept eating. Best of all, the milk started flowing. I mean really flowing. We watched in awe as the jar filled. Within minutes she was milked dry and she hadn’t even finished her dinner!
Oh happy day!!
Now, she still didn’t give half a gallon, but I’m sure, now that we are truly emptying her, her production will increase. And, we are all happier for it!