The goats have really kept us busy this spring. As you know, we sold Lilac and Sara (who, btw, went on to produce gorgeous, healthy triplets– a perfect outcome after all my work with her last year!), and then, after our remaining milker, Onyx was unexpectedly put down, we had her two bucklings to bottle-feed. We borrowed a Boer/Nubian cross doe to supply them with milk (I hate that store-bought powdered stuff….seems to cause far more problems than it does good!). We knew that this doe had to return home eventually though, so S and I began discussing what we wanted to do. We had planned to have 3 milking does for this year, and to move with us back to Red Gate next year, but it just wasn’t happening. Faith hadn’t freshened yet, so the only doe we had in milk (and only once a day, since she was still nursing kids) was Bell. I left the choice to S whether we wanted to settle for our 2 first-freshener does, or start the search for another doe. He decided he wanted the milk, so told me to start looking.
My goat mentor and friend knew of our plight, and made me an offer. She had a 2-year-old Alpine daughter of our former buck, Stallion (whose genetics we absolutely loved!), and the doe was pregnant and due to freshen within 2 weeks. I could buy her pregnant for one price, or I could leave her, let her freshen, test-milk her, and let my friend keep any kids produced, then buy her at a steal of a price. In order to reduce the chances of losing a doe from kidding complications, or getting stuck with a poor milker, we opted for the second option. So, the wait began.
“Latte” finally freshened–a beautiful and well-bred little buckling. We let my friend keep her for several days to milk out and feed the baby (and because I HATE the taste of the hormonal first-week’s mik!), then I went out and test milked her. I had seen her prior to freshening, and she had very tiny little teats, so I was concerned. To my surprise, her udder and teats had ballooned up, creating a beautiful udder, but also large and bulbous teats. I wasn’t thrilled, but she was milking about 6 lbs. a day 4 days post-freshing, and I liked her personality and breeding a lot, so I decided to go for it. To make it even better, my friend offered me a 1-week trial to make sure I liked her. We decided to keep her. Although I am still getting used to milking Latte’s oversized teats, I have fallen head over heels in love with her personality! She literally adopted me as her baby, cries for me when I’m not there, licks and nuzzles me when I come out, follows me around like a little puppy dog, and is just a sweetheart in general. This is so unique for an Alpine, but I just love her. The only real concern I have with her is that she has become a 10.5-11 lb per day producer at just 4 weeks post-freshening! (BTW, a gallon of milk is roughly 8.4 lbs, meaning she is giving us almost a gallon and a half 4 weeks after having her baby, and the doe generally doesn’t peak until between 6-8 weeks!) That may sound like a great thing, but since she isn’t a pushy goat that inhales all food in sight, she is a bit underweight for my liking already, and with this type of production, she will likely become very high-maintenance for a while. We’ll see how it goes. In the mean time, I am supplementing her with whatever calories I can think of to help keep her weight on was we approach her peak lactation.
As if that wasn’t enough milk, Faith freshened with a precious little doeling. The single little girl doesn’t consume nearly as much as a buckling, so I had to start milking Faith out right away to keep her milk up. Considering she has always been my bucky kicker that hated to be touched, she is turning into quite a nice little milk goat. It’s truly amazing how those maternal hormones can turn a girl around!! I was really worried what kind of mother Faith would be since she seemed so mentally immature, but she has surprised me all around. She was my most complicated delivery yet, requiring a great deal of assistance to untangle 3 legs and a head and get that baby out. But once the doe, “Joy” was on the ground, it was love at first sight, and Faith just grew up before our eyes. They have been a fun pair!! For the record, Joy is for sale, but S has agreed we can also keep her if she doesn’t sell. Whether we simply continue offering her, and just increase the price with breeding and freshening is yet to be determined. However, she is a very impressive little doeling from incredible milk and show lines, so I am not in a big rush to sell.
Bell’s little doeling left a few weeks ago, leaving us with her buckling eating every drop of milk he could get from her–the little pig. In fact, thanks to him, I learned about “milk goiter”, a harmless and temporary swelling of the thymus gland that sometimes happens in high-milking lines when the baby is overfed. Oh well. You can just see the soft swelling right where the jaw meets the neck in this photo.
I don’t bottle feed if I can help it, so the best I could do was pull him off earlier in the day. When not with the does, his primary companion was Pelham, our American Chinchilla rabbit buck out in the community hare-pen. These photos are hard to see, as I couldn’t get close enough without them both getting up, but I thought these photos were so cute!
I didn’t really expect him to sell since there are no Kinder breeders around here in need of a buck, and he started getting really pushy and trying to head-butt me when I walked in the pen. So yesterday, the little buckling became dinner. We didn’t actually weigh him live, but after weighing the meat, we believe we got 10 lbs. of meat from a roughly 20 lb. kid, or around a 50% dress out percentage, which isn’t bad for a 6-week-old, milk-fed Kinder kid.
That brings an end to our kidding season, and I am busy settling into our new milking routine. I am currently getting 10.5-11 lbs a day from Latte, 6 lbs. from Bell, and 4 lbs. from Faith (in addition to whatever her doe is eating). I am totally thrilled with Bell and Faith producing so well, and having such great udders and teats for hand milking–especially for first-fresheners. I still have to hobble Latte who likes to dance, continually shifting from one leg to the other for some reason, accidentally tipping a pail or two in the process, and Faith who still hasn’t figured out she can be milked without lifting her leg up in the air (she still does it for baby too!). Bell is a gem to milk though, standing perfectly still and earning her freedom from the hobbles after the first few days.
My milking routine takes about 30 minutes, which isn’t too bad. Thankfully, we certainly have no shortage of milk now, and in fact, we are selling milk shares (the only legal way to do raw milk in Colorado) for the peak season. We have sold several already, and still have a fridge overflowing with milk. We drink 1/2 to 3/4 gallon per day, and I am eagerly awaiting all my rennet, cheese cultures, and soap-making materials to arrive in the mail so I can start using some more of it!
It’s really funny how a dry spell can make us so incredibly appreciative of something as simple as fresh milk!