Milking a First Freshener
Getting your first goat is THE BEST feeling. As soon as your goat comes into milk you start scheming and dreaming about all the things you’ll do with that rich, creamy goodness. Cheese, Soap, Ice Cream, Butter…you’re going to be unstoppable!
And then you try milking for the first time.
And suddenly you decide that store bought milk is probably better for you anyway.
First fresheners can be THE MOST frustrating thing on the planet. As most of our goats have been rescued from the slaughterhouse, and most likely came from dairys, they all had incredible manners. But then we got Mahidabelle. Not only was she a first freshener, she was WILD. Never been touched before, didn't care about people, not interested in you, wild!
But I’ll be damned if we didn’t train her to be a good milker. Here’s how we did it:
You need three things when training a first freshener. A sense of humor, patience, and waterproof clothing.
Getting your girl up on the stand is the first battle. We would lure Mahidabelle over to the stand with grain and then have to physically pick up her legs, front first, then back, in order to lock her in securely. (You’ll notice I said “we”. Training a wild goat to milk is AT LEAST a two man job). Once she was in the stand we let her get familiar with her surroundings.
Jenna from Bee Tree Farm puts it best, “I try to spoil the FFs on the stand and then slowly just put my hand on her udder while talking to her, giving her a cookie, whatever - just so they know they have to deal with the hand in order to get the treat. It can take a while but they always come around in the end.”
Once your girl has become accustomed to the stand, that’s half the battle. Now the milking. If this is your first milker than the chances are good you’re about as experienced at taking milk as your doe is at giving it. This is where the patience comes in. She’s frustrated with you, I PROMISE. Be kind to her, but firm. We didn’t use hobbles, mainly because I was scared to death Mahidabelle was going to take a flying leap off the stand and break both her legs. I don’t even know if this can happen but I’ve learned over the years, if you’re not comfortable with a tool maybe you shouldn’t be using it. That’s how people (and animals) get injured.
Another quote from Jenna, “If she's getting on the stand by herself - that's almost half the battle - seriously. Deep breaths, concentrate on learning to work fast and gently, and she will definitely get better on the stand and start producing more. I think at least 50% of farming is patience.”
Nick would stand behind Mahidabelle almost draping his chest against her back, and hold her back legs. He spoke very softly to her this whole time. I was positioned under her and would start milking as fast as I could (in our case we’d already had experience milking so Mahidabelle got lucky there).
We did this for a month. 30 DAYS. Mahidabelle was definitely on the extreme end of milking, but, that’s probably because she wasn’t a tame goat to begin with. In that 30 days I got almost no milk. Well, let me rephrase. I got almost no useable milk. Mahidabelle either kicked the pail over or dropped a foot in. This is where she earned her nickname Mashitabelle (remember, sense of humor is key when dealing with goats!) Also, goat milk splashing all over your lap…not awesome. Try to shower as soon as you can afterwards…people will start to talk about your “odor.”
Every time you milk, try to end on a good note. If your goat is fussy and you quit, then suddenly she learns that by being fussy she gets to leave. Goats are smart (like velociraptor smart) and will continually test you if you give them the space to. Try to end on a good note so that you’re both pleased with the experience.
And then one day I went out by myself to milk and Mahidabelle came running when I called her, jumped up on the stand and waited to be milked. It was only as I was wrapping up that I realized I never even bothered to lock her head in. That milk later became ice cream and, I can assure you, it was the best tasting ice cream I’ve ever had.
Speaking of First Fresheners...
Jenna is currently selling some incredible dairy stock. If you're in or near the Austin, Texas area you should definitely check them out. Jenna has impeccable taste when it comes to goats and has skillfully chosen her herd genetics with an eye for temperament and production. Unfortunately, as with all animal breeders, diversification of herd genetics is important. In order to keep producing top of the line stock we have to continually add new blood. Her loss could be your gain! Below you'll find copies of her craigslist ad.
2 Nubian Bucklings, 1 Nubian Doeling Three beautiful Nubian babies for sale as bottle babies or will be weaned and ready to go in one month. Born 3/8/14, two bucklings ($100) and one doeling ($150) available. Mother is from a local dairy/cheese maker and peaked at 10 lbs/day during her first freshening. Father is registered Nubian and mother is 75% Nubian/25% Alpine. Spotted baby is a buckling, all black baby is a buckling, and baby with white patch on side is doeling. All are disbudded and will make wonderful additions to a dairy herd. Both parents on site.
2 Nubian Doelings - $150 We are accepting deposits on two beautiful Nubian doelings, born 3/29/14. They are being dam raised and will be weaned in two months or may go now as bottle babies. Mother is a first freshener and comes from strong dairy lines out of a local dairy/cheese maker.
Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text Jenna: 512-470-8824