Frustrations of a First-Time Milker

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This has been our busiest spring since we added new animals to our farm. I haven’t been able to write as much as I would like. I hope you enjoy my story about hand milking experience.

Ginger, our goat, gave birth to her baby in April. I was thinking that she would have twins but being her first time she only had one baby. I thought that I would have a good 10 weeks before I would start milking, which would put us after baseball season and school would be getting out. So of course, my perfect plan was not so perfect. A few days into nursing she got really hard and red on one side. I was thinking mastitis so without a milking stand I was attempting to milk her kneeling next to her in the barn stall. My dad had just started working on the milking stand since I figured I didn’t need it yet. My husband had to hold her while I attempted to milk her into a mason jar because I had no supplies. This lasted for about four days and then she finally started feeling back to normal and her baby was nursing on both sides again. That experience left her very lopsided but she still produces milk on both sides.

When I started researching what I would need to milk properly, I came across a site that said they start milking in the morning when the baby reaches 2 weeks old and then the remainder of the day the baby nurses; that way both baby and us can have milk. This sounded like a good plan so I just needed to wait for my milking stand. I really didn’t buy any supplies for milking. I use a homemade teat dip and cleaner and use one of my stainless steel bowls. I figured why spend money on supplies if I am not sure I am going to be successful. We had gotten some electric fencing so we have more than one pasture, which makes it easy to separate the mom and baby at night.

Those first couple of mornings were a nightmare. I am not really what you call a morning person so getting up early and going right out to deal with my ornery animal was not a good combination. I had to be sure I was done with all the animal chores and in the house by 7 a.m. to make sure the boys got ready for school and I could make their lunches. That first morning I tried to do the two-hand method of milking and it was going everywhere but in the bowl. Once I started getting some into the bowl, she kicked the bowl and what I could save was all dirty. Luckily, we had just gotten a pig and I gave him the milk. This happened the first few days and I was getting very frustrated but the pig was loving it. I had to get a goat hobble, which I read about in my research.

A goat hobble secures the two feet together with Velcro closures and it doesn’t hurt them. I ordered one right away because I was ready to give up on milking. Once it arrived, I tried it and she kept kicking it off because her legs were too skinny and it was too big. I managed to figure out a way for it to work because I just spent money on this thing. So once I got her to stop kicking and start cooperating, things have become less frustrating.

My Amish neighbor, who let us borrow his billy goat, stopped by to see the baby and he gave me some advice on technique, which helped.

The last week or so, I have been consistently getting a little more than a quart of milk each morning. I have about another week before I am going to wean the baby completely and then my twice-a-day milking will begin. So far I have attempted to make cheese and yogurt with little success. So if any bloggers out there have some good recipes, I could use them.

My kids are drinking the milk but they prefer it if I make it chocolate milk but hey, it’s a start. This is still very new but I hope milking will go smoothly from now on. Now I just need to figure out what to do if we want to visit our family overnight. I am hoping our Amish neighbor will help us out or one of his many children. If you would like to follow more of my journey into hobby farming visit me at www.facebook.com/conleyfarm.