Wondering what milking a goat for the first time is like? I’m sharing all of the not-so-glamorous details!
Milking a goat for the first time
“I mean, how hard can milking a goat for the first time really be anyways?” Prior to milking Fran, this was the basic thought that constantly ran through my head. I originally planned to share some tips and tricks for beginner milkers in this post, but I’m far from ready to give any sort of advice on this topic. Instead, I’m going to share some confessions of milking a goat for the first time. Friends, it’s not going to be pretty.
Nursing mamas unite
Before milking a goat for the first time, I always joked that I’ve been either pregnant or nursing for the past 3+ years, so milking a goat is basically the same thing as milking myself, right?! Surprisingly, this was party true. Neither of my kids have ever tolerated taking a bottle (thanks high lipase!), so I don’t pump very often. It seemed like a discouraging waste of effort – we tossed the vast majority of the milk down the drain.
Even though my kids have always preferred to drink their milk straight from the tap, I have a long history of plugged milk ducts. In order to relieve the plugged ducts, I’ve done my fair share of hand expressing over the years. Want to know something kinda cool? Milking a goat for the first time is basically the same thing as hand expressing! Once I realized this point, I assumed that I would immediately become the goat milking master. Oh Colleen, you’re so naive.
Milking a goat & prep fail
This wasn’t Fran’s first go around with babies. She had triplets last year, so I figured she would have no problem adjusting to being milked for the second year in a row. Ben and I were a bit strapped for time, so we decided to hold off on building a milk stand for a while. Rookie mistake. Milking a goat for the first time probably would have gone much smoother if we started training Fran on the milk stand during her pregnancy, but we didn’t. Live and learn, right?
Although the actual “act” of milking went smoothly, we needed to do some major behavior management. Have you ever tried milking a goat while she’s kicking? It’s really hard, so milking quickly became a two-man job over here.
Milking a goat for the first time looked something like this: Ben tried to reduce kicking while also feeding Fran by hand. (Because of course, she would prefer to eat out of his hand rather than out of her feeder!) In the meantime, I milked Fran as quick as humanly possible. The behaviorist in me struggled to figure out our best plan of attack. On the one hand, I didn’t want to reinforce her kicking by letting her off the milk stand. On the other hand, pushing too hard was making the milk stand aversive. (Side note – did you know that I’m a child therapist that specializes in creating behavior intervention plans grounded in the basic principles of applied behavior analysis? Well, now you do!)
Since then, we started a new way of handling these challenging behaviors, which has significantly reduced the frequency of Fran’s kicking. It’s still a bit premature, so I’ll hold off on sharing the specifics for now. Because who knows – she might kick over the milk pail and I’ll be drenched in milk tomorrow morning.
Milking a goat for the first time is messy. Really messy. Between Fran stepping in the milk pail to her kicking it over and dumping it all over me, we’ve encountered our fair share of messy milking moments over here. Getting covered in goat milk is the best way to start your morning! (said no one ever.)
(Side note confession – I finally just remembered to order a milk bucket! We kept forgetting, so we’ve been using our stainless steel mixing bowls to get the job done. Whoops!)
Milking a goat = questioning your sanity
Since milking a goat for the first time, I’ve questioned my sanity on more than one occasion. After a few challenging mornings, Ben and I have seriously asked “why the hell are we even doing this?” It’s hard. But isn’t learning any new skill challenging? Milking a goat for the first time is not only a new experience for us, but it’s also a new experience for Fran. Even though she was milked last year, she wasn’t milked by us.
When we initially contacted the breeder about purchasing Fran, she adamantly said that she does NOT sell a doe in milk without her baby if you’re a first first time milker. I thought that sounded a bit crazy, but now I get it. When you’re figuring our how to milk a goat for the first time, you’re probably not going to get much milk. If the doe doesn’t have a baby to keep up her supply while you figure it out, then the goat is going to either 1) get mastitis and/or 2) dry up before you ever figure it out. Talk about a major bummer.
Rather than placing pressure on ourselves to get the maximum amount of milk as possible, we’ve decided to remove the self-imposed pressure and take it slow this year. We separate Fran and Edith overnight and milk Fran in the morning. Edith continues to nurse all day, so if we don’t fully drain her udder in the morning, it’s no biggie.
This is our first year milking, so we’re learning from our mistakes. When we breed our girls this fall, we’ll definitely do a much better job planning and preparing. For now, we’re taking it day-by-day and enjoying every drop of goat milk that we get 😉