Green Scene Blog: Learning as we goat


I used to write all the time on this blog about gardening, and then canning, and then chickens. We still garden a lot, haven’t slowed down on the canning, and our flock remains a fixture. But all those things are, in a way, par for the course. They’re factors in our life, smoothly incorporated into the routine. What’s news right now is goats.

And the goats are a big deal for us. They take up an awful lot of Mr. Green Scene’s time as he cuts fenceline and moves the electric netting from place to place, wrangling goats all the while. They’ve loomed large in what I think of as the headlines of our household: "Goats Escape; Are Recaptured." "Novice Farmers Await Birth of Unknown Number of Kids." "Twins Born to Tan Goat; Cuteness Overwhelming."

Yesterday, the headline read "First-Ever Goat Milking." Our second set of twins was born on Monday–again, we weren’t home and missed the event; good thing our goats are of a breed that doesn’t need human help to kid.

The new babies looked great, but mama had a problem: Her udder was lopsided. (Women, can you imagine the humiliation?) One teat was very swollen, and the kids wouldn’t nurse there. The more they nursed on the other side, the more lopsided she became. And the more outsized the teat, the less chance the kids had of latching on.

So we determined to try to milk her. Need I say it? We’ve never done this before. We got a few tips from friends with experience and we read up online. Then we marched into the goat fence with a bowl of warm water, a leash and collar, and a big bucket o’ treats.

Mr. Green Scene lured the lady with treats, grabbed her horns, and held her while I clipped on the collar and leash. We secured her to a nearby tree and offered her grain. Then I washed her teat, to help her relax and let the milk down, and began milking with the technique I’d read about: thumb and forefinger around the top of the teat, other fingers squeezing in turn, top to bottom.

And right away, it worked! It was much less tricky than I’d feared. Milk squirted onto my shoes and onto the ground. Mama goat was very cooperative (for a goat). I milked and milked, feeling elated.

Ten minutes later, things were much improved. We milked twice again today (saving some of the milk, now that we know we can do it). We’re not sure that we’re out of the woods; the kids still need to get used to milking there, and we’re crossing our fingers that mama won’t get an infection. But what a cool experience.

Nothing’s better than learning on the fly!