Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Milking a Difficult Doe

There are some does that just don't realize that their job as a milk producing dairy goat is to allow someone to milk them.  I don't know if any of you have ever had a doe that was difficult to milk or not but ...... let me tell you we've had a few rodeos around here!  There has been bucking, jumping, stomping, and kicking!  And, one even landed a good kick to my nose when I was putting the milkers on her!  She doesn't live here any more!

A couple of years ago was Myrtle's first freshening.  When we purchased her she had a couple of 4 month old doelings still nursing her.  They kept one of the little does and we brought Myrtle and her little doe, Heather, home.  I weaned the little doe as soon as we got home and decided to milk Myrtle with the rest of the milking does.  This was when I was hand milking 6 does during the summer of 2008.

Myrtle had other plans. You see, she had never been milked before!  And, she didn't plan on starting now!

 Myrtle (before the horns came off)

She got up on the milk stand fine because there was grain on the back side of the head lock.  She stood fine on the milking stand.  But, as soon as I touched her udder ... she jumped and kicked so bad that there was no way to even get the milk pail under her.  But, she had to be milked out so I tried every way I could think of to get her milked.  I finally leaned across her and milked her out onto the milk stand by reaching around and under the other side of her. I was pretty beat up by the time I got her milked!  This only lasted a few days until I decided to dry her off and try again when she freshened the next spring.

The spring of 2009 when Myrtle freshened, she milked much better. She still danced sometimes, but at least I could milk her into the bucket!  This season, she milks perfectly.

Then there was Maggie ... She either sat down or even laid down when I tried to milk her when she freshened in the spring of 2009.  We had the milking parlor ready and I was milking by machine at this time.  She would not get up no matter how much I lifted her and poked at her to get her up.  So, I put the milkers on her while she was laying down.  She gave me the funniest look when I did that!


Eventually, she decided that since I wasn't going to beat her (I think she had been beat on the farm she came from.) and I was going to calmly milk her while she laid down ... that she would just stand for the milking.  I still have to be very gentle and let her know that I'm not going to hurt her when I milk her, but she willingly gives her milk now.

In the spring of 2009 ... when the young does that I had raised from birth started freshening for the first time ... we had a real rodeo when I was training them to milk in the milking parlor.  Most of them milked okay by hand the first few days, but it was eventually time to milk them by machine. 

I learned that if I held their back leg tightly just above the hock that it presses the tendon and they can't kick.  It usually only took a couple of days of holding their leg for them to understand that milking wasn't so bad and they calmed down completely.

Then this season there is Pearl.....   She was injured last spring by an aggressive doe and she delivered her baby premature.  So she didn't have the opportunity to be in milk last season.  So, she is a 2 year old first freshener this spring.

She is one of the bottle kids I raised from birth in 2008.  She is one of the sweetest, most loving, always in your pocket, always giving kisses, biggest pet out in the goat yards.


But, when it came time to milk her, she absolutely refused to stand still.  She never kicked at me, but, she jumped and danced so much that I couldn't get a milker on her and her teats are so small that it was impossible to milk her by hand!

I held her leg above the hock joint like I had the difficult ones last spring in order to get the milker on her.  I had to hold a leg with one hand and hold the milker on one side... and then switch to hold the other leg and hold the milker on the other side to get her milked.  She gives LOTS of milk ... so this took a lot of time each milking.  By the time I had her milked, I was exhausted !

I thought she would calm down in a couple of days of milking her this way and milk calmly like the other does.  But NO!  This went on day after day!  I had to think of a better way to get her milked.  So, I came up with a hobble system that was gentle on her legs and strong enough to hold her still.

Velcro hobbles

I had some Velcro strips that are used as leg bands for cows.  I pulled out 3 of these ... put one snugly around each of her legs just above the hock and then looped one between the straps on her legs.  This worked wonderfully!  She only hopped a couple of times.... but only a little hop.

Side view

The Velcro straps are about 12 inches long and about an inch and a half wide.  They fasten on themselves when wrapped around her leg.  This was SO much easier than squeezing her leg tendon to keep her from kicking and trying to get the milker on her at the same time!

Pearl Milking!!

It only took a couple of days of using the Velcro hobbles to help Pearl understand that I was not going to give up and that she would be milked!  She now stands calmly for milking.  I am SO thankful!

I know some of you have your own stories to tell about milking a difficult doe.  I'd love to hear about your experiences and solutions you came up with to get them milked.  Please feel free to write about your experiences in the comments.


Linda said...

Wow! You have had your fill of hard milkers! I had a pygmy doe that was old and had never been milked. She didn't take to kindly to me milking her, but after trying different things we finally got it worked out, but for a bit it was very frustrating! I milked an ewe that was older and had never been milked before and she was a breeze!

Laura said...

I had a very hard time with my little doe Valentine who just had her twin bucks. They were nursing on only one side and she was completely engorged and swollen on the other side. I had a horrible time milking that side out her teats were so small, I am sure she was in a lot of pain. Fortunately I only had to do it three times before the kids began to nurse on that side as well. I am not sure if it is a characteristic of Boar Goats but she has double teats on both sides so there is milk coming from two spouts on each teat, its wierd. I noticed several of the Boar Goat does at the fair had the same anatomy. In any case they don't make for good milk goats. I am still anxiously awaiting the arrival of my Oberhasli cross kid or kids.

Jenna said...

We're still a very small herd, so haven't had loads of experience, yet. However, last year one of our first time fresheners gave us the WHOLE rodeo effect - my Mom, Josh and I all tried to hold her down and nothing worked...it went on for days and days:)

So far this season, none of the yearlings have caused a havic!! Yay!

I just love your blog - thanks for sharing all of the wonderful goat goodness!!

Melodie said...

We haven't started milking yet,but that is the plan! I am glad you wrote this post...I may go out and get some Velcro just in case!

Feral Female said...

Oh my your stories sound so familiar Brenda! We have one doe, Felicia, that is just a horror in the milking stand!! She`s going to kid for her 3rd time this spring and I surely hope another year of age mellows her, but I have my doubts.

It takes two people to milk her, one to hold her rear legs and one to milk. Those hobbles are a wonder that I shall have to get before we set into milking this year!

goatmilker said...

I have to say luckily all my new milkers have got with the program and been good. But I have had my share of hard ones to and it is frustrating just takes some time. Have a great day Brenda. Rebekah

Rebecca of Sunny Morning Farm said...

OK Brenda I am almost ashamed to even tell "My" story of milking a difficult goat here cause you may think I am inhumane. But here goes anyway....

My Saphira. My beautiful big Nubian doe. My first Nubian and my first "Goat" milking experience. I had milked so many big huge Holsteins, Jerseys, geurnsey's what have you, by hand or milker. I have milked in any type of parlor or stanchion barn around. But I found that nothing had me prepared for milking Saphira!!!

I have the best little one stall dairy barn you have ever seen! Danny built me a really nice milking platform for her. It is chair high so I can sit comfortably while milking. This was her thrid freshening so she should have been a pro at being hand milked by now. She was a sweetheart everywhere else.

I had been feeding her on the stand before she kidded and I would mess with her bag and she would try to stomp me!! I thought well she will be better when she is actually ready to milk.
WRONG!!!! I have never been kicked so hard and so fast by a milk cow. Not even a new heifer could come up with the tricks that Saphira had up her sleeve. I tried pushing my head up in her side to sorta throw her off so she had no way of kicking, I made a pair of really nice hobbles and used them everywhere I could ever imagine and all she would do was lay down with them.
She laid into my milk pail so many times or kicked it over almost every milking. I had the enviroment just perfect. I even played soft music for her!!! No added stress! I called the girl who sold her to me and she told me that she didn't milk her herself. She had her on loan the first year to a friend and the second freshening she raised a couple bucklings on her. She called the girl who milked her the first year and she said she was horrible to milk. It took 3 people to hold her still! OMG!!

I did some research online and finally decided after wearing a full pail of milk on my head one morning and Danny getting a really good laugh out of it that I had no choice but to tie her legs. I tie her back legs and her left front to the milk stand and she doesn't try to lay down and can't kick. I try often to not use them or to use fewer ties and she stomps me. It is not worth it anymore so I just tie her and it's less stress on everyone. She comes up on the stand and sets her legs next to the pole where she is tied so I am sure she doesn't mind it either!!

I am so looking forward to having a goat that loves to be milked!!

That's my story...Please don't think bad of me! Danny often thought I would get mad enough to kill her. He said he was going to come home one day to find Saphira or me dead!!! It all worked out tho....I had better tricks up my sleeve than she had!!!

Brenda said...

Becky - I laughed so hard at your story that I almost fell out of my chair!!

They are definitely different from cows!

It sounds like you and Saphira have come to understand each other.

*** I'm sorry I can't quit laughing! ***

OurCrazyFarm said...

Those goats must be related to a couple of our goats! It takes 2 or 3 of us to milk one of our first timers even after a couple of weeks of milking. I think I am going to have to make some hobbles, sounds like they do the trick!

Rebecca of Sunny Morning Farm said...

Now Terri please don't be fooled into thinking they always work because all they did was make Saphira lay down!!! But she is a special goat!!!
I am glad they work for brenda and others tho!!

Brenda I am so glad that I was able to entertain you today!! I can really laugh about it now....wasn't too funny when I came out of the barn with milk dripping from my eyelashes and met Danny in the yard laughing at me. He said you left Saphira on the milk stand I said I know I am going to get my gun!!! He turned her out for me and saved her life!!

Brenda said...

Thank you all for sharing. I knew you would have some very interesting stories about milking goats! They have their own personalities and can pull some pretty interesting stunts sometimes! Some are just more stubborn than others and some are easy to milk right from the very start.

Jenna - I think you and Josh are doing a wonderful job with your goats. You are so dedicated to taking care of them!

Terri - I hope the hobbles help with your problem milkers!

Christy said...

I've only milked one so far and she was perfect. But the one that is pregnant now HATES to have her udder touched. It worries me.

Deborah said...

My experience this year so far has been they do a switch in personalitlies during birthing. I have one doe who I could even act like I was going to touch her, it would freak her out. After giving birth I was concerned about trying to milk her, even psyched myself up for days before starting. She is a large nubian cross and quite low to the ground. Anna has become the easiest to milk, giving lots of milk. She doesn't kick, stomp or act up. Amazing! The only down side is I can't convince her to get on the milking stand. Any ideas? The other doe is a first timer, who I bottle fed as a kid and could put my hands anywhere on her prior to birthing. I even spent time each day rubbing and pulling gently on her teats. In an effort to condition her for milking later. Who now has become a bucking broncho when you get anywhere near her udder. Forget touching her! Seems a jeckle/ hyde personality comes about when the hormones are flowing. Love the stories shared, let's you know that it is not just you that is having milking challenges.

Brenda said...

Deborah - I completely agree with you! Who knew that Pearl would be such a stinker. Before she freshened I always rubbed her udder when she was in the milking parlor with the rest of her group. And, she is about the biggest pet that I have.

Then last year ... Heather ... who is Myrtle's daughter ... was a first freshener. Before she had her kids, I couldn't even touch her. I would have to corner her just to do anything with her. I was REALLY worried about how I was ever going to milk her. But, as soon as she freshened, she let me milk her by hand while she was in the kidding pen and has milked perfectly ever since. I was finally able to make friends with her with a bag of corn chips. I was out walking through the barn and was eating a small bag of corn chips. She came to the gate begging for some. I hand fed them to her and she has been my best fiend ever since!

You might entice the doe that is resistant to getting up on the milking stand with some kind of treats. I had one that I had to push up on the stand for a few days before she got the idea that that's where she was going to get her feed and get milked.

One thing's for certain ... live with goats will never be boring !!

Queen Beth said...

I love goat milk. Your goats are so cute. It makes me want some. :)

Jenny said...

Last year of the two does that I had freshen here, I had them completely backwards as to which I thought would give me problems with milking. The one I thought would really be difficult wound up being the one I am still milking because she doesn't play up too much. The other was such a spazz on the stand and her head was too little to keep in the stanchion that I wound up giving up on milking her that year. The other doe that I'm currently milking was already in milk when she came here and supposedly hadn't been hand-milked before. She won't let me handle her at all, but she gets up on the milk stand and lets me milk her without a problem--except for occasional off days when I have to literally chase her through the yard and into the milk stall since I can't manage to catch her and lead her. And then there were the first few months when she would only put her front feet on the stand and I had to lift her back legs on every day, but she's past that now thankfully. She looks like your Maggie, and I think somebody abused her before she came to me.

~Tonia said...

Difficult milkers I have had one or two...
First Was Tulip.... She is no longer with us.. She went to a new home.. She never had healthy babies and was a pain to milk.. So she now mows lawns.;)
Then there was Dottie... Sweet sweet Dottie(Now)
Her First Freshening was horrific.. She is all about food so I thought That will be a cinch! She goes up on the stand No problem... I get her up there and start to wash her.. um yeah Start Never finished She stomps and stomps Hears her baby holler and throws a serious fit!
She kicks me and is GLARING at me over her shoulder she tips the food with her mouth and knocks it to the ground... All that feed on the ground... I wore several bruises on my arms from her. And Hobbles did not work.. It was pure torture for both of us.. SO I let her raise her babies that year.. The next year she was as good as gold... Never a problem.. She loves me now...
Then there was Scruffy..... Ahhh yes Scruffy named that because basically we rescued her. She was being chased by dogs at the farm we got her from and looked horrible. She was a yearling. My friend bought her and I was going to milk her and keep babies for keeping her at my place.. SO she comes around for 1st freshening.. She had come out of it And was Beautiful.. I get her on the stand.. She stomps and kicks.. Steps in the empty bucket that is not even under her.... Tips the bucket Hollers.. BEFORE I even do anything.. So I proceed to try and wash her up... I get that all done.. She keeps stomping so I send the girls to the house to get a pair of old tights to hobble her with.. I Hobble her.. I tie her legs to the side post... I finally give up and she smirks at me...
I try it again and again.. When I hobble her she lays down... She lays down I stick a 5 gallon bucket under her belly.. She pulls her back legs straight up into the air.. Looks like an acrobat... So i get the bright idea to take a sheet and tie her whole body to the rail on the side of the milkstand... She is DYING.. Bellowing... Makes her kids holler and makes it that much worse.. I gave her 2 weeks and QUIT.. So my friend gets a place to keep her goats and Scruffy Who hasn't been scruffy for 2 years now goes to live with her real owner.. She is good as gold.. I seriously debated hating that goat!!LOL..
Okay there are my horror stories!LOL

Brenda said...

Tonia - These are too funny! I'm glad you still love working with goats! I think you've had more unruly milkers than I have!! I'm sure glad most does are wonderful to milk that that there are only a few of these problem milkers.

It's funny how different they can be from year to year. Myrtle and Maggie are milking like pros this season.... without a problem at all. I sure am glad!

~Tonia said...

LOL At the time Especially with Scruffy I was frustrated to the point of tears. I decided then and there only goats that I didnt have a Personality conflict with would be allowed to stay.Lol... I am so glad Dottie worked out because she is a good momma and one of my easy keepers!! That was just 3 out of the ones that I tried to milk...

Anonymous said...

Now that is creative thinking with the leg straps!
The only goat here I milked was Annie and I had raised her from a bottle. She is very lady like and a non kicker, thank goodness.

On the incubator here, yes we build it and it would hold over 2000 eggs if full. We set eggs every week so we have biddies hatching every week through early summer. Usually the hatches are around 80-120 chicks a week. We sell them at livestock sales/auctions. We also raise Pharaoh Quails.
Have a great day.

Mrs. Hall's English Classes said...

Nothing could have been more reassuring after coming in from my first milking ever of 2 first fresheners! This post reminded me I am not alone, and that there is hope. I have big dreams of goat cheese, so it was with a chuckle that I measured out 1/3 cup of milk upon returning from the barn. I did get a bit more than that out, however, most of it was spilled on the milk and due to the repeated kicks of Bonnie. Then there was Chianti who was a champ until the food was gone and then decided to lay down. The good news is both let me milk them on one side for the time it took them to finish their grain, the bad news is I could not figure out how to reach the left side and get milk and by then they were both DONE! So, they are both with their kids all day (Dill is one week) the other 2 Zeus and Luna are 3 days old. Here is my big question. Since they are being milked by their kids, can I do my best without worrying about milking them out completely as a way to build up trust and comfort slowly, and extend the time each day? Or is it really important to do a full job every time? I am still dumping milk for a few days since they had Ivermectin so I am not so worried about milk amount. Any advice welcome! Thanks so much for all the wonderful stories.