Over the summer Chet’s bottle baby and beloved pet, Duke, died suddenly.
Naturally, Chet was devastated. And I was eager to heal his little broken heart. I told him that as soon as he was ready, he could pick out a new goat. I envisioned another cute little bottle baby. But Chet had other plans. Somehow he got it in his head he needed a milk goat. Okaaaaayyyy. I didn’t know the first thing about milk goats, but I figured that’s how you learn.
Meet Miss Barbara.
She is a sweet, gentle and loving goat. That’s why we chose her. We were sure her gentle disposition would make her easy to milk.
We were wrong.
I pride myself on my being somewhat of an expert on nursing. But I’m learning that my experience with my own children does not necessarily translate to the farm. In Miss Barbara’s defense, I think the problem might be user error. Turns out milking a goat is a little more complicated than we expected, at least for us, since we have no idea what we are doing. I’ve narrowed down our milking problems to a few factors that might have affected Miss Barbara’s comfort level and thus her “let down.” At least that’s what we called it back in the days when I was nursing babies (and for that, the cure was a long hot bath and a glass of wine, but again, my experience does not translate.)
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
We purchased Miss Barbara from a lovely farm. It’s so lovely in fact, and fairy tale-like, that it is actually named Goldilocks Farms. There’s a charming little cottage overlooking a flower-covered meadow. An adorable toddler is scampering about. Beautiful nanny goats and two fine, handsome bucks roam the pastures. The animals are tended by none other than Goldilocks herself. My friend, Ashley, is blonde, petite, and cute as a button, She looks like she might break into song any minute while blue birds join the chorus and mice and chipmunks scamper about tying ribbons in her hair. I mean, she is super cute. She is also, in my opinion, the area’s greatest living dairy goat expert.
Oh, I know goats don’t care much about aesthetics. And our farm isn’t exactly a dump. Our barnyard overlooks the river on one side and our gorgeous old red barn on the other. It is really very charming here – but perhaps a bit more rugged than Goldilocks Farms. Like Ashley’s little ones, my kids are adorable too. Really, they are. But they are also loud and wild and rambunctious and loud and energetic and loud. Okay, they are exhausting. And then there are the dogs who lie menacingly just outside the barnyard, waiting for a chicken to somehow wander outside the fence into their awaiting jaws. And there’s the buffalo. And the frequent gun-fire. (Yes, gun-fire. My older son is a competitive trap shooter.) I’m just saying that even though our place is perfect for us, it might have been a bit of a shock to Miss Barbara who came from the serenity of Goldilocks Farms.
BABY GOATS GAOLORE
Okay, not galore. We have three. But according to Ashley, the responsibility of suddenly being the only adult in a barnyard full of babies (okay three), might have been overwhelming for Miss Barbara. Again, a hot bath and glass of wine is an excellent cure for the overwhelmed young mother (or middle-age mother), but alas, Miss Barbara is not me.
A NEW SETUP
In addition to being truly charming, Goldilocks farm is also efficient. Ashley has a semi-private milking area where her gals go for a nice helping of grain and a quick milking. There are no distractions.
Here we are (several of us) trying to milk Miss B at our place. I thought she might enjoy a view of the river whilst we milk, but now I think she prefers a more private set up. And maybe fewer milkers. Poor Miss B.
Also, and I’m making assumptions here, but since Ashley’s children are small, she sets the schedule. This probably allows for a fairly regular milking schedule. Unfortunately for us and for Miss B, we have to squeeze in milking (pun intended) between football, volleyball, cheerleading, religious education, and various other activities. We milk at approximately the same time everyday, give or take a couple of hours. I don’t think our crazy schedule makes owning a milk goat impossible, but it has probably been a bit unsettling to Miss Barbara.
Bottom line, we don’t know what we are doing. Milking a goat looks so easy, especially when Ashley or her husband Lance are doing it – in two minutes flat. But we have struggled to get the hang of it. Imagine, if you will, a pack of loud, albeit friendly, strangers jerking on your udder in an attempt to learn the art of milking. Every milk goat farmer has to learn sometime. My apologies to Miss B that she has been our practice goat.
But we are making progress. We still have good days and bad. Some days she milks out easily and fairly quickly. Other days she kicks and tries to jump off the stand. It’s frustrating, but she is being patient with us and we are with her. And no matter what, she remains a loving and gentle goat – when she’s not kicking us.
I think since we aren’t able to milk her out everyday, she’s drying up. And that’s okay. Actually, more than okay. This has been a good experience for Chet and for me. We’ve learned that having a milk goat is going to be a lot harder than we thought. We’ve learned that next time we’ll need to be more prepared with a ready milk stand and an efficient set up. We’ve also learned that we like having a milk goat. For all the trouble and frustration, working with Miss Barbara has been rewarding. I’m not sure how much longer she’ll be in milk. After she’s dry, it will be quite some time before we have another goat in milk again. But when it happens, we’ll be ready. In the meantime, we will just keep enjoying our goats as show goats and loving pets.