Two weeks ago, my first freshener, Joy, delivered her doeling kid about 9 days prematurely. I believe the cause was due to being head-butted by our herd-queen, and the injury resulted in all water sacs rupturing, part of the placenta detaching, and the kid dying. The trauma, in turn, caused an early and fairly difficult delivery, as the kid wasn’t quite ready, and therefore, was not presented quite properly.
After it was all said and done, we were left with a first-time mom, and she was totally confused. She frantically cried and searched for something, but didn’t seem to know what she was looking for. Although she did manage to produce some colostrum (which we milked out and froze for future use if needed), her under-developed udder was small, and her teats were incredibly tiny and difficult to milk. She was also extremely sore, to the point she could hardly walk–both from the head-butting and the difficult delivery.
I knew that her genetics allowed for a good chance of her being a great milker–if we could get her through those first days and encourage further development of that udder. I feared that hand-milking wouldn’t quite stimulate her enough, and I wasn’t sure there was any way S could do it with his big hands. The next day, on a whim, I called a neighbor who I knew had a few week-old bottle kids, and she happened to be in need of milk. I explained my idea to her to try to graft a couple of kids onto Joy and see what would happen. It would provide milk for the kids, and natural stimulation for Joy. As a bonus, we hoped their suckling would increase her teat size and that, perhaps, she might even bond with them and consider them her own. The neighbor thought it was great idea.
That afternoon, they brought a couple kids over. Joy was less than impressed, and wanted nothing to do with them. I suspect because she has never been a mother before, she just didn’t have a clue what they were or what she was supposed to do with them. In fact, she immediately showed signs of outright aggression toward them, attempting to chase, head butt, and bite them. Nonetheless, we wanted to give it a shot. One person held Joy’s head and collar securely so she couldn’t bite the kids, another person held Joy’s back legs so she couldn’t kick the kids, and I then worked to convince the kids that they should suck on the teats. Because it was their normal feeding time, they were hungry, and after a few squirts of milk in the mouth, they quickly caught on.
Later that evening, the kids came over again, the helpers grabbed hold of Joy’s body, and with a little guidance, the kids happily drained her little udder again. Because of Joy’s tendency toward aggression, we couldn’t leave the kids with her, so the neighbor simply brought them over 3 times a day. Over the next week, all parties quickly caught on. Within a few days, Joy didn’t kick at them any longer, and seemed to even appreciate their nursing her full udder to bring relief. It just took one person to hold her to keep her from biting at their tails. The kids acted like pigs, and thoroughly drained her each time. In the early days, the owner would then offer them a little bottle after their nursing, just to make sure they got enough.
Within a week, Joy’s milk started to come in as normal, her udder began showing good development, and her teats began to lengthen. The kids began to stop nursing because they seemed satisfied, and no longer needed the additional bottle. One morning, S went out to feed and Joy was screaming for relief from her tight udder that morning. S wound up starting a new schedule, as her udder just wasn’t developed enough to hold the quantity she seemed to be producing, so to continue encouraging production, he decided to start milking her every morning, in addition to the 3 times a day nursing she got from the kids. That basically put her on a 4 hour milking routine throughout the day, and allowed about 8 hours at night, during which her udder could be stretched a bit. Everyone kept up this schedule pretty religiously. Within a week, it seemed that Joy was producing about 2-3 cups per milking, meaning a possible production of around 1/2 gallon a day at 10 days post-freshening.
I returned from my trip and took over most of the milking duties (S was all too happy to hand them off!!). It was fun to watch the kids nurse. As milking time neared, Joy stood at the fence looking at their barn across the road, and crying pitifully for them. As soon as she saw them coming, she eagerly ran to them and stood patiently, even without being held, as they latched on and started to nurse. It was clear she had learned the routine. She doesn’t appear to have the outright aggression as in the beginning. Now, it almost seems that she is still confused, possibly thinking she should clean their tails, but instead gets carried away and bites down on them. To be safe (they aren’t my goats after all!), we just hold her head so she can’t turn around.
Faith dried herself up while I was gone (she is due to kid in June), Latte has rapidly decreased in her production over the last week (she is due to kid in just 4 more weeks), and we need Joy’s milk. Certainly, we likely could have gotten milk with a normal twice a day milking routine from the beginning. However, there were a number of factors involved in our decision to do this. Our move is coming up, the stress of which could easily reduce her milk supply, plus over the next 8 weeks or so, I expect her production to only increase. I don’t want to risk going too long between milkings in her case, as I don’t want the additional pressure of stored milk to cause her to slack in production at all until we get moved and she settles in. Because Joy’s udder now seems to be developing normally for a first-freshener, we have backed off to 3 milkings a day, spaced at 8 hour intervals. S milks at 6 in the morning, before he heads off to work, then I milk at 2 and 10 p.m.
If I had to do it all over again, I would try to bring the kids over while she was still laboring, rub them in the birthing fluids and tissues, and allow her to lick them clean. I think she would have, and I think it would have greatly increased the chances of her accepting them as her own. With her being a first-timer, waiting the 24 hours like we did just increased the difficulties and her confusion as to what was expected of her. Nonetheless, I am so thankful it did work out like it has. Milking those little teats multiple times a day would have been a nightmare, and I am not confident her udder would have developed as well as it has without the kids to help. At this point, I don’t see any reason why she won’t be just another part of our twice-daily milking line come summer.