Notes from Windward: #67


The Milking Routine

Alison describes the process

     Six weeks ago, or so, Becca, Walt and I climbed into Big Red to pick up a few of our most recent additions to Windward, three Nubian goats by the names of Jewel (mother), Sven and Ollie (baby boys). (Sven and Ollie were named in honor of the increasing number of connections between Windward and Minnesota.) When we arrived we were greeted by the owner couple and led into the goat pen. Thirty goats, mostly Nubian, some toasted brown in color, others: chocolate, cream and mixes were sitting, laying down, or walking in the space.

Becca and Alison double-teaming Jewel

      One particularly friendly goat with large black splotches on her cream coat and a goofy looking face, ears amusingly dipped out to the side of her head (a Pippi-esque image and a classic Nubian trait) on her came up to us and let us pet her head and back. The woman owner pointed out Jewel. She's a tan mother goat with a delicately feminine build. The only un-proportionally large part of her is her large belly which hangs off of her visible back bone; this is a typical Nubian build. She was shy and retreating that first meeting. We loaded Jewel, struggling, into the back of Big Red and after a chase, picked up the boys one-by-one and put them in the bed with her.

     Jewel is a caring mother. For the length of the trip to Windward she stood protectively over her two boys and alertly watching us in the front cab and the changing landscape. Grain is incentive for her to part with her boys at night and for milking, otherwise, she's not having.

     The first few days at Windward were uncomfortable and uneasy for Jewel and the boys. They didn't touch their hay the first few days they were here and clung defensively to each other anytime a two legger approached. The first few millings took patience and a few firms pairs of hands to get her up on the milking stand. Jewel was ready, each morning to take the grain offered her but she needed a bit more encouragement than that to get into position, this was the biggest training challenge. Some mornings, mounting her on the stand turned into a ten minute lure, carry/ push up, ordeal. We found that a step made the mounting go much more quickly and smoothly.

mastering the task of producing a steady stream

     It took a few days to develop a rhythmic and strong milking pull. The first week was the adjusting period. Jewel was used to being milked by machines which have a strong, rhythmic pull and get the job done faster than us beginners. To let us know our milking was not up to her standards she would quickly plunk her left foot into the milking pot which made the milk unsuitable for drinking. By now, she has gotten used to us, and as we've improved our milking form, she has stopped the surprise foot attacks.

     The milking routine has turned into a well attended morning ritual. The two interns on assignment for the day's milking are the first to arrive. Once Jewel is in position for the milking, Sven and Ollie meander over to watch mom at work and to sneak a bit of grain now and then from Nikki's hand. And on occasion we have a guest appearance from Toby, the cat, who tries to snag Jewel milk from the pot.

Sven and Olli watch the milking with great interest

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67